SHE WAITS | Sheila Kelly


My mother waits for a bite or two

and the hand to feed her and I am 

running late again, juggling a grocery list

of cares too small to matter to her sick

in bed. I bring no excuses, my arms

full of People, the National Enquirer, 

her Blessed Be God prayer book.


Is this where we all end up someday,

waiting for a bite of pressed turkey, withered

gravy and peas, applesauce with an impossible-

to-peel lid, white flour bun on a plastic plate,

pat of butter softening?   

     My mother

waits in hospital, her lips pursed, wordless,

in a shape I read easily: she’ll never ring

for help when daughter will do, never 

yield to the broken strings of her musty heart,

its irregular beats and clots, the crashes

of its muffled hammers.

     She waits for

my hand, its steady music, antiphonal,

full as a bell tone in cold air, yoked

by a rope, a cast iron cup.


She waits, I swing unfree, move through

an arc, round after round, my open

mouth rings yes to her need, her failing

heart, yes to her living, her dying, back

and forth sounding, one tone only.


Sheila Kelly writes poems and plays and leads writing workshops in libraries, community centers, art galleries, and most recently, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She trusts the special magic of generative writing in groups; writing together as a kind of deep play that energizes and connects writers as human beings and as artists. A retired psychotherapist, Sheila has faith in the healing qualities of undefended speech that poetry brings and she believes making art is a birthright and not a luxury. Her work has been published in many journals and anthologies, most recently in The Comstock Review, Paterson Literary Review and Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Sheila lives in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats and two chickens.