Poet Kathleen Aguero writes: “This poem reflects my attempt to grapple with a radical change in two important people in my life: a close friend who became clinically depressed and my mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. The very core of their beings seemed transformed, and I wondered what constitutes a self, how stable is our character, if it can be so altered. Some of the details in this poem are taken from life; many are invented.”
she wouldn’t leave the house, or she’d be gone for weeks
and return smelling of cigarettes and bleach.
After that she’d say what anyone would say
only, like thunder in winter, it didn’t sound quite right.
When she thought we weren’t looking, she tied knots in her hair.
She wouldn’t eat anything white.
After that, she hid money in the refrigerator.
She wore five pairs of underpants at once.
She cringed at butterflies, after that. She covered her ears
when she talked and was afraid of the telephone.
After that, she wouldn’t eat in front of anyone.
She threw away her plants. She collected fruit pits. She stopped biting
her fingernails after that, but she wouldn’t let anyone
cut them either. She wore a hat, but never a jacket.
After that, her dog wouldn’t go near her.
She wouldn’t answer the doorbell, but she never closed the door.
She refused to go near the windows.
After that, she never drank tea. She hissed
at her dead mother, standing in the doorway.
She ripped her good dress into pieces
and cut her father’s photograph in half.
We didn’t know how to think about her after that.
She left without saying good-bye.
From After That by Kathleen Aguero, Tiger Bark Press, 2013
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