Eight Hours by Lynne Schmidt

By the time we arrived and found the right room,
My aunt estimated that there was eight hours left.

“When it happens,” she said, “you let it happen.”
My mouth formed a line, not trusting words to form.
“Can you handle this?” She asked.
Again, I nodded.

I took my seat and evaluated what happens in eight hours—
A car trip from Maine to NYC,
A work day,
A good mountain hike with fresh air.

I was at the mountain yesterday,
Even with the news, I chose to stay,
Chose to soak in the warm air over snow covered grounds as winter fought spring off just a bit longer.
I considered waiting,
Considered staying away,
Considered not coming at all.

But I came,
I’m here now.
I sang songs,
Polish butchered on my English tongue.

I wanted to hold her hand,
But for years I watched the gnarled remains curve into itself,
A tree branch suffocating the trunk.
She was tucked safely under a quilted blanket,
A small bird with delicate bones.
She’d be cold
When she was supposed to be comfortable.

Hours passed,
Family came in and out.
Another round of morphine, tears, hugs, stories,
It won’t be long now.
It won’t be long now.

A nurse questioned if she is holding on
Waiting for someone that hadn’t come.

I called my mother,
Put her on speaker phone.
She spoke another language fluently.
The only words I translated were,
“I love you….I love you,”
And the global language of tears
That form from losing someone you love.

Later, my aunt encouraged us to get food,
Get rest,
Said she’d call when things change
Because you can only stop conversation so many times
As an exhale slips away
Only to find the one square on the quilt
Still moving.

The phone rang in the dark of a hotel room,
“Come quick, it won’t be long now.”
Gather keys, and dogs, and other things,
Drive five minutes,
Check in.
And by the time we arrive,
She was gone.

Lynne Schmidt (she/her) is a mental health professional in Maine. Her memoir, The Right to Live: A Memoir of Abortion was the Maine Nonfiction Award Winner and a 2018 PNWA finalist. Her poetry received the honorable Mention from Joy of the Pen, and Pub House Books for her collection Dead Dog Poems. Her work has appeared in Royal Rose, Soft Cartel, Sixty-Four Best Poets of 2018, 2018 Emerging Poets, Frost Meadow Review, Poets of Maine, Poets of New England, Maine Dog Magazine, Alyss Literary, UNE Magazine, Her Kind Vida, and others. Lynne is the founder of AbortionChat. She has been and continues to be a featured poet at events throughout Maine. When given the option, she prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans

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