My sister bought my mother an orchid
to put on her windowsill, something pretty
for her to look at. The orchid needed
to be fed an ice cube three times a week.
When my mother was better, she would
get a piece of ice from her drink and lovingly
place it in the orchid pot herself. Then, for a while
the nurses or my sister and I took over.
The morning my mother died, the orchid
drooped and bowed its browning head.
Maybe it died in sympathy with my mother—
or maybe it was the first time in a while
I thought to look. We were all so busy
at the end, hovering around my mother
fussing to get her to take ice chips.


My mother tells me the nurses are dressed like astronauts,
covered in plastic. Mt. St. Rita must go on the assumption
that any of the patients could be infected. The RNs complain
that it’s hot under their masks and visors, gowns and jumpsuits.
My mother and her roommate suggest the nurses
open the window for air, even though it’s chilly, even though
it’s a nor’easter. All they had to do was get us blankets.
Poor things, they’re working so hard.
Then her room
is like a snow globe, everyone’s world shaken, flakes and stars.


Since she still can’t receive any packages, my mother is running low
on dark chocolate and cheese popcorn. The staff hand out Hoodsie Cups
that come with wooden spoons like those I remember
from the grade school cafeteria. My mother doesn’t have
the hand strength to deal with the splintery spoon or poke through
the frozen treat, so she lets the ice cream melt then drinks it.


She has pretty much given up
calling Michele or me as it’s too painful
to punch the buttons on her cell.
We call her at specific times, and usually
she is able to answer. They stuck a swab
up my nose. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Yesterday she kept asking me to speak up,
and I could barely hear her. She grew
frustrated then started to laugh.
She was holding her flip phone upside down.


Maria, my mother tells me, gives the best showers.

And Karna is back after less than a week. It was just a kidney stone.
She doesn’t have Covid-19!

“How are you doing today, Janet?” I hear Sarah’s chipper voice
in the background of my mother’s TracFone.

Then my mother—I’m better now that you’re here.

Denise Duhamel most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches at Florida International University in Miami.