Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s , poem by Joy Bowman

On her deathbed she asks me if I can still play

the piano, and begins to sing of jasper roads.

I search the linen for for­got­ten cro­chet nee­dles

she swears are under the cush­ions.


Her hands nev­er stop mov­ing, trem­bling out

let­ter after let­ter into the air, spelling some­thing

intan­gi­ble, some­thing liq­uid. Nev­er for­get­ting

to stab her fin­ger at the end of each line.


After she is buried, I hang no basil

and pray to a god I do not know, but fear.

Receiv­ing no answer, I pray to her instead,

and final­ly to some­thing qui­et and unnam­able.

I imag­ine a sil­ver cord still exists between us,

not yet buried by the snow­fall.

Some­where between here and there,

I find her in a mildewed trail­er,

next to High­way 30, head­ing east.

I tell her I have my car wait­ing out back,

you don’t have to stay here.


In the back­yard my father is dows­ing for water,

she has a headache so my palms begin to spill

salt over her gray hair.

I try to take her cold hand into my mine,

but she does not rec­i­p­ro­cate, they remain fixed

meld­ed into the porch ban­is­ter.


Instead her eyes, milky and bewil­dered, stare

into the dark­ness search­ing the dim hills,

look­ing out into the dis­tance some­where.

bowmanJoy Bow­man lives and writes in east­ern Ken­tucky. Her work can also be found in the anthol­o­gy Feel It With Your Eyes: Writ­ing Inspir­it­ed by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ken­tucky Art Muse­um. She is a prac­tic­ing her­mit.


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