Next week at this time I’ll be striding the streets
of Rome like a Colossus. I’ll sip an espresso,
puzzle over an Italian newspaper.
The ruins will loom, and the sky will bring
an alien light that will remind me
of my mother, confined to a bed in Alabama,
her traveling days over. The most she can
hope for is a trip back home under good care.
I write the same poems over and over.
She makes the same gestures over and over.
She struggles to answer the phone, stricken voice
molding each syllable as carefully as a fresh pie crust.
Yesterday she said she dreamed I had left her
forever in that room where strangers roll her
off to therapy in a wheelchair.
I pack for Italy, trying to decide whether to take
the blue sweater or the leather jacket.
Mom is wrapped in strange sheets in a small room.
Kenneth Autrey lives in Auburn, Alabama. For many years he was a Professor of English at Francis Marion University in South Carolina. His work has appeared in Chattahoochee Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, Texas Review, and many other journals. He has published three chapbooks: Pilgrim (Main Street Rag), Rope Lesson (Longleaf Press), and The Wake of the Year (Solomon and George). He is a coordinator of the Third Thursday Poetry Series at Auburn University.