In the Dream Where My Mother Dies and I’m Sent to Live With Her Ghost

In the dream where my mother dies
and I’m sent to live with her ghost
my mother wears only one sweater
and it’s not even my favorite.

I want to buy a new sweater for my new ghost
mother but she says what’s the point. No one
is going to see her anyway. No one but me.

Besides, she’s lost her love of shopping. She floats
indifferent through the food court of our favorite
mall, slipping through the cracks in clearance
racks, she lets the coupons I’ve clipped arc
like feathers as they filter through
her foggy hands.

I try to show her photos of my father or
photos of vacations or photos of my son smiling
at the zoo. The ghost of my mother sighs and
says she’s forgotten all these things. She
only wants to sit at the window and watch
our old oak tree abandon its leaves.

In the dream where my mother dies
and I’m sent to live with her ghost
there’s a deep sadness always in my throat.
It clings there like a pad of rich cream I can’t
seem to swallow down. It’s the sadness
of an older sadness

I stand behind my ghost mother at the window.
In its reflection I watch her cloudy ghost eyes
and realize it was the same way
with my grandfather. The reaching for a hand
I could never seem to clasp, the soul rising from
the body like steam from asphalt after a summer rain,
no way to trap it, no way
to convince it to stay.

But my ghost mother won’t hear it. It’s not the same,
completely different, she says. My grandfather
became a ghost first and died
so many, too many, years later.


What a shame it is that beautiful women
must do everything beautifully. Against
a wall at some house party, this one goes
down slow. The man who slides in to sit beside
her looks and sees how blue light nestles
a crescent moon into the cupid’s bow
of her lips. He looks and sees her negative
space, dreaming himself big enough to fill it.
He thinks himself very clever, doesn’t notice
the color draining from her the longer he talks.
Two hours later she’ll collapse alone.
Three hours later she’ll wake up, this writer separated
by three feet and a hospital curtain.
Close enough to hear her mumble to the nurses
as they undress her like a doll.
My name is Neha. I’m going to be a doctor. You will,
I think, because I still want to be things too, despite myself.
What a shame it is that beautiful women are always bleeding,
but inwards. Somewhere so deep that even love
can’t tie a tourniquet.