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Todd Davis



News from Mulligan Hollow for My Mother in a Memory Care Unit in Waukesha, Wisconsin

An early spring in a year without much winter.

Here in the mountains, I do what I do most Aprils:

stumble up the stones of the hollow, trailing a thin line

of water where fish have been trapped for millennia.

To the east, where the cities have quieted along the coast,

I think of friends and family, some already sickened

by this virus, some already burned to ash

to save others from infection.

Where the sun shines on the southern slope

spring beauties pour a delicate fragrance

into a pink teacup of flowers, like my grandmother’s

china, honey and lemon stirred in boiling water.

In the morning, when my mother talks

from four states away, the phone shakes in her hand,

voice fading, then rising, memory like snowmelt’s

tongue, eroding the bank of long ago.

She asks when I can visit, repeating the question

after I’ve just answered. I think I might tell her

about the sickness, like the summer she was seven,

hidden in the house away from other children,

her family worried about polio.

Instead I begin a story of these native fish, trout speckled

with reds and blues, males with tangerine bellies

from November’s spawn, festive as the costume

jewelry she wore when she was young.

To calm myself, I count the backs of fish waving

in the shallows, pectoral fins balancing in the current.

I’ve forgotten most of the prayers my mother taught me.

But I’ll ask for mercy, for all we’ve done to this earth

and each other, for the ways we’ve begun to care

as those we love die.



When all the trees were cut the first time,

and later when the most precious skin on the mountain

was stripped for coal, these trout should have perished.

Now the water’s the color of rust, yet somehow they persist.

Like my mother’s faith, the fact she still recognizes my voice

and remembers who I am.

This afternoon I found in a crease near the ridge

the first red trillium, flower without nectar

pollinated by carrion flies and beetles. My mother calls it

God’s flower because the petals and leaves come in threes,

a prayer we can drink with our eyes.


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