Just Out of Reach

My mother stands on the top rung of an aluminum ladder
reaching for the manual typewriter on a shelf above her head.
I want to go to her but somehow can’t. On this shelf

slumps the bulky accrual of her long life, dusty and worn.
The leather satchel from graduate school. The battered box
of homemade Halloween costumes unused in fifty years.

The lumpy green sleeping bag, its flannel lining cozy
against my legs one rainy morning in Illinois, Dad huddled
under the tent flap making pancakes on our camp stove.

Mom teeters. Certain things begin to make no sense. That we
got rid of those belongings when we moved her here. That she
is out of her wheelchair. That the nursing home allows her

to have a ten-foot ladder in her room. It occurs to me now
that she will fall. That she knows this danger but overrules it
with her urgency—so much yet to say—that this endeavor

may be a good enough way to die. Mom presses her lips
together, scoots the typewriter to the shelf’s edge
and grunts, lifting it into her feeble arms. Of course

she tips back under its weight and Oh!—how unanswerable then
the thud of her body, the crack of her head, the reverberating clang
as the typewriter bounces and comes to rest on its side. Unmercifully

this does not wake me. I want to go to her but somehow can’t.
A good enough way, I think in my panic, and though I am only
agreeing with her, immobile from the force of her own resolve,

and though it is only a dream, when I wake
the shame sticks to me all day, and even now.

Marg Walker lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she pursues her abiding interest in the human voice through poetry, creative nonfiction, and choral music. Her work has appeared in numerous journals. As a political and spiritual being, Marg believes in the power of the arts to uplift, connect and transform.