Online Issue 25

Instructions for Caring by Pam Baggett

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.