"Near the End"

my mother smelled like cat piss

and refused to let Housekeeping launder

her slacks. She hoarded black bananas

and once tossed a month’s supply of Aricept

into the trash. She forgot our outings

by dinnertime and complained

that no family ever came by.  

She never said if she’d hoped

for more children after me. Hope

was not a thing to pin on your sleeve.

Not then, not in that house I was so eager

to leave. She spoke her piece through slap

and doorslam, the slant eye of gin.


Next summer I’m thinking of going back

for one last look at her name.

Dear mother, show me the way

to love you. When I leave this time

it will be forever. On the black asphalt

of anger you laid down layer by layer,

hard hat and stiff broom.

Steamroller. Steel rake.

What should I say to the ground?


About the author

Emily Ransdell's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kestrel, Poet Lore, Poetry Northwest, Tar River Poetry and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize, the New Letters Prize and the Janet B. McCabe Prize from Ruminate Magazine. Emily divides her time between Camas, Washington and the North Oregon Coast.


Emily Ransdell