On the day I graduated from saltines

to toast, and could manage

a few laps around the bedroom

with the two transparent tubes,

and needles stuck

into my arterial veins,

my mother showed up at the door

demanding I take my wig off so she could see

what I looked like now that my hair

had all fallen out, every eyelash curl,

every inch of peach fuzz, gone,

her face cocked

in the way that Parkinson's had set it

like a wind up toy missing a part,

her pants too short, and socks lewdly unmatched,

her turquoise eyes, sparkling,

as she gripped the banister, sturdying herself,

leaning on her avuncular cane,

so I yanked the wig off, and stood there

with my rolling IV,

as if this were some kind of accomplishment

and she did not flinch or shudder

the way she did at the sight of blood,

but instead, kept staggering towards me,

as if she wanted

to rock my bald head in her hands,

as if it had suddenly dawned on her:

“you are my beautiful baby.”

This poem appeared in the February 18, 2009 issue of the magazine.