My dying mother limps into the house
stands like a little girl at my study door
and says, "I fell down."
Cuts and blood cover both hands,
on one knee a scrape,
the lower lip, swollen and darkening,
looks as if someone had slugged her.
I make her promise to tell people
it wasn't me. She laughs, and my mind races
with pictures of the hospice nurse
who visits tomorrow, the dozen friends
invited to her 82nd birthday,
and my guilt---I did not walk
with her today---as I clean the blood
off her and the car's upholstery.