Brown, the light as it slides upon wooden
floors stained by dust and time. My eye
catches it as, bent by fatigue, I mop oil
spilled out of its can on porcelain tiles,
just a door apart. Sad for the waste of
dear olive juice, a gift from my father,
I wash and rinse. My heart shivers and
shakes, my wrists and arms ache.
No furniture is left in the rooms but a
battered couch on which Mother naps,
wrapped within a wine-colored shawl.
As I brush my hand on her cheek, half-
asleep, she murmurs anguished words.
I’ve seen her awakening always this
way, frightened child, apprehending
disasters to come.
I would like to tell her they’ve already
occurred. Don’t you see, Mom, how
little survived? The old sofa, your
shawls, couple of jammies, this piece
of soap. Few essentials on the kitchen
shelf. Father’s oil, today accidentally
spilled by the nervous jerk of
She falls back into sleep, her face like
a wrinkled fruit or the crumpled page
of a book, her face the knotted fist
of a child. I water the last of the basil
perched on the windowsill, watch the
shimmer of green through young
leaves, and how very quietly lymph
pulses through their minuscule veins.
Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. Visual artist, musician and dancer, she currently lives in Los Angeles. She is the author of Other Maidens (BlazeVOX, 2020), An Alphabet of Birds (Moonrise Press, 2020), In Her Terms (Cholla Needles Press, 2021), Pages of a Broken Diary (Psky’s Porch, 2022) and Alter Alter (Elyssar Press, 2022).