by Robert Earleywine

I wheel her out of the lunchroom and into her room,
take her out of the wheelchair and lead her to her bed.
“Oh, my back,” she says. “I must’ve done something to hurt it.”
I get her to lie down in the hospital bed.
“I’m so cold,” she says.

I cover her with sheets and spreads. She curls on her side:
the curled white hair, the white sheets. I ask her to hold my hand.
“You were out of your head when I called last night,” I tell her.
“I’m so tired. I want to go home. Why can’t I go home?”
“Why won’t you go to sleep?”

“I don’t want to go to sleep when you’re here.”
“You need to go to sleep. If you sleep your back will get better.
You’ll go home sooner if you sleep. Sleep is good. You need to sleep, Mother.”
Her eyes close and her breathing softens. Her hand is warm in my hand.
I sit beside her bed and look out the window that won’t open.

Robert EarlywineRobert Earleywine has published in Epoch, Webster Review, Forest Park Review, Delmar, Natural Bridge and in a book of St. Louis writers called Under the Arch.

His MFA is from Washington University in St. Louis where he’s taught fiction writing and literature since 1983.