My Mother’s Nighties

                       Bev Sweeney

After each hospital visit
I carry home a bag of nighties-
rose pink prints
warm enough
for the ward’s grey chill
soft enough
to cradle old bones.

The bag sits by my washing basket.
She has given me instructions
as only a mother dares –
Make sure you hand wash,
cold rinse, hang them in the shade.
Sometimes, exhausted,
I toss them in the machine,
pray her fingers will not sense
these small betrayals.

The doctor lifts her nightie
probes with slow hands
 – another lump
this time her abdomen.
Blanket over stick shoulders
she is wheeled to radiation.
He says it will help –
slow down the process
ease the pain
for now.

On my line
by the warm brick wall
I peg her nighties.
Filled by spring breezes
they flap and twirl
in a floral dance
until – as the day wanes
I reach for them where they hang
flat, drained and still.