Lie often. When she thinks you’re her sister Pauline,
talk about growing up on the family farm:
jumping from the hayloft, that unheated bedroom.
About the trip to Atlantic City
where you rode bikes on the boardwalk,
boys you kissed behind the roller skating rink,
the years you worked together in the war factory.
If she refuses cough medicine,
lay a hand on her chest
to show where the sickness is,
speak as her mother, call her Lillian.
Even though it’s December and raining,
tell her when she wakes from a nap
you’ll go to the park for a picnic,
that you’ll bring the family’s favorite
Lebanon bologna sandwiches,
special potato chips you can only buy
on trips up north to her childhood home.
Promise fireworks and ice cream. Tell her
you’ll bring fresh peaches.
Promise no matter what you’ll always be with her,
on weekly trips to the wound clinic,
doctors scraping at infected pressure sores,
at her bedside through the cold that nearly
killed her. At supper, as you spoon ice cream
into her mouth and talk about next summer’s
family reunion, the long drive home
you’ll take together.