by Magi Stone

    Parents die more slowly now,
    through longer life spans.
    Layers of what they were flake away,
    become dustballs on nursing home floors.
    Feedings from IV tubes dilute fiery spirits.
    Feistiness that made us tremble turns to drool.

    They become fruit salad:
    bruised pears, skinny slices of pineapple,
    clusters of shrunken mommas with sunken cherry cheeks,
    legs thin and bent as stems. Poppas have sparse white hair,
    coconut, sprinkled over grapefruit pink scalps.
    Their hugs have the hot softness of rotting melons.
    Their juice is spiced and preserved,
    too tired, too bitter to savor. Minds float
    in the stickiness of Alzheimer syrup.
    Hands that braided hair are palsied, tremor
    with a life of their own. Hope is a tarnished spoon.

    They are slow guests in a whirling world.
    Mom and Dad died long ago,
    with the first stroke, the last hip replacement,
    the mambo beat death rattle of pneumonia. If they
    return, would we recognize them?

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