Still Life

The child, frozen in the woman,
stands at the door beside her father.
They stare, hushed, at her mother
lying pale, splashes of raven hair
in a cloud of sheets, red lipstick
on a weak smile.

The bedroom is green and dark,
so dark she could smell pine trees,
but the child smells bleach and remembers —
Grandmothers washed the gauze curtains
at Christmas when the baby was lying
beside her mother.

Her mother lies alone in early spring
light. She whispers the child’s name
and tries to raise her head but extends
her arm instead, an arm whose faint
freckles no one will remember
but the woman.

The child clutches her father’s hand
and tugs the long road up his arm,
begging — tell me, tell me, tell me
what is wrong with mommy— until he chokes
an answer, and she is too young to know
about wisdom teeth but she knows
he is lying.