CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
On My Mother’s Death
Rusty Morrison


Trees are a focusing device.

I fit an elm, like a lens, in the sightline between myself
and my mother’s death.

I ask a willow’s gray-hatched lineation to hold the confounding motion
of death’s branches.

To learn mediation, I study fallen twigs and leaves turning open
their shadows.

Even the pine that began as a volunteer in my mother’s front yard, now
overtakes the entire view from the picture window.

Trees threshold upward, a most difficult work. I fill cardboard boxes
with my mother’s things, which are almost porous to time’s passage
through this nearly emptied room.

I stop several times—a form of branching. Which is also a form
of being severed.



The least action

—quick as rubbing my face with both hands—becomes a ridge I’ve
already crossed.

Iconic ridge, already stylized. A pattern on the wallpaper in my mother’s
house. Already diffident with my distance from her death.

Her death. Which is death’s property now, not mine.

Death moves away like an image.

Like an image, death is empty on the outside. Leaving nowhere for eternity
to gather its dust.

Dangerous, sometimes, to make any motion at all. Any movement becomes
a design. Any design an ethos.



A fabric shot through with veins.

As black lint curls, embryonic, from the black knit scarf on her shelf. As
the scarf becomes a friction that hurts my eyes.

As the past’s frequency and the future’s finality—the always and the never
again of my mother wearing her scarf—coexist here.

Not a hiddenness. Not a warning, like touch or don’t. But a taunt,
from the purity of its isolation.

Blood. Its rinse of vertigo across the senses when the worsening widens.
A rushing in the ears, behind the eyes. Not historical, not grammatical,
or durational—a parent’s death.

To reach for the least object and be hotly embarrassed by anguish. Analyses
can’t govern a scald, a cornea scar, a floater just off-focus, at the site-level
of existence. Is existence.

When there is no longer a memory of my mother here, I will wait with
“no longer.” We will wait together, for the nothingness to move.
It will move, without her, without me.