The gift

My younger sister’s just now sent me

a maxim that our mother used,

mostly in regard to others;

then, each day as eyesight failed her,

more often of herself.

First you are a memory;

then you are a photograph;

then you’re just a name

and then you’re nothing.

A single, simple four-line stanza,

shrinking as it goes,

four beats, three beats, then the two,

the rhythm good but not precise.

Plainly she is travelling

more slowly than she’d thought to,

decades still away from nothing.

I don’t recall the lines myself

but every other day or two

she’d get me up at seven

pitching me ideas by phone.

Now, albeit indirectly,

at thirteen years along that road

her dying eyes foresaw,

she sends me this belated gift,

a poem of her own.

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