on a night before she was dying, 
my grandmother sits alone 
in her apartment
on the bottom floor of the complex.
muffled feet walk above.
a distant laughter maybe 
from the hall maybe 
the courtyard. orange sun rest 
draws long shadows from 
the sofa & the arm chair
& the thin legs of the dining room table.
she touches 
the leaves of her fern near the window,
rubbery texture. 
rustling green.
there is nothing on television
but a PBS travel show & she is sick
of travel shows. 
italy & prague 
& ireland & greece. she cradles
the remote like a forgotten limb
with the device shut off 
& the quiet of the place settling in.
her cat slips out 
from under the bed,
darting to the next room.
her sweet little ghost. he deserves 
a bowl of milk. he deserves 
a handful of fish flakes. 
soft dull peach carpet beneath
her feet. a hand pressed
to the wall to keep her steady.
does she think of her daughters
or her grand children? 
does she imagine
our loneliness like
i try to imagine her's? 
though really, what do i know 
of those nights,
hundreds of them in a row,
where she listened to the walls
until sleep came? 
what can any of us know
of another's secret lives?
what did she do 
with her hands? 
was the oven
a mother or a device? 
was television good company 
or mirage? the tiles
in her bathroom were pink.
sitting on the edge of the bath tub
did she try to count
how many there were in a row?
i am counting the tiles
on my bathroom floor tonight
while orange sunset light
intrudes through the window.
one, two, three... and so on. 

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