First Person

Poem: Portrait of a Mother and Daughter

By Alexandra Donavan

I wrote this poem while teaching at the Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community in Las Animas Colorado as a Denver Lighthouse Writers Workshop Writer in Residents. The poem was an unexpected gift I gave myself.


She’s standing up, straddling the portable commode,

her soft black leggings down around her ankles.

I am wiping her after she is done

and for the first time I feel how soft and frail

she is down there; for the first time I see

how much of her has become thin, and soft as bruised petals.

The hair is gone here too

as it is from her head and the rest of her,

a thing I should have expected

but hadn’t thought about.

We never talked about this moment.

I never asked what shame or pride or love it held for her.

But I tell you: I carry no greater memory

than this, of cleaning and caring for

this place where I am from,

this bare and honest earth,

this old house of passion

now a country cottage

who has begun the slow collapse

back into the wild garden of herself,

who is showing me even now the path home,

my own way forward

into soft earth,

the wild fertility of ruin.

Alexandra Donovan (formerly Alexandra Martin) is a poet, teacher, chaplain, workshop and retreat leader, and grant-writer based in the Los Angeles, CA, and Fort Collins, CO areas. Her first chapbook, Mother Stump, is now available from Yak Press.

Hospice Chaplaincy is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting excellence in spiritual care at the end of life. We are committed to the belief that people from all backgrounds, cultures and faith traditions should experience the end of life in a way that matches their own spiritual/religious values and goals. The task of dying is complicated and often confronts us with lots of spiritual, emotional and physical suffering. Hospice Chaplaincy is dedicated to providing support and professional development resources for hospice chaplains, patient advocacy, and education services to the public, to create a cultural shift to inform and transform our thinking around the psychosocial and psychospiritual issues at the end of life .

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