Issue > Poetry
Karen Paul Holmes

Karen Paul Holmes

Karen Paul Holmes has a full-length poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014). Other publishing credits include Best Emerging Poets 2016 (Stay Thirsty Media, forthcoming), Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Slipstream, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol. 5: Georgia (Texas Review Press). To support fellow writers, Holmes originated and hosts a critique group in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Crossing Off Days


We read her journals after she died—
Was that wrong? We hoped
to latch onto a piece of our mother, connect
to a part we didn't know. We found
her berating herself each day—

Yesterday I didn't do a thing. Lazy old goat!
MUST jump into action TODAY:
send card to Delores, make lamb manga.


She wanted only to sit in the lounger—a pot of tea,
shoulders shawled for the morning breeze,
garden on the other side
of the porch screens: hibiscus, palms,
Honeybell orange. More than once,
she told us she wanted to be found in that chair,
still and peaceful with Mozart or Pink Martini,
but not yet.

Tomorrow I will MAKE MYSELF
go to water aerobics.


None of us remembers when Mother
began crossing off days on her calendar
as they passed. X X X.
Perhaps at 74, after Dad died, X marked another
day closer to him, a task done, another day
muddled through. X times 365 times 12.

When cancer returned, hospice set up a bed
in her den with garden windows. Except she didn't
recognize the room, accused us of conspiracy,
thought we had sent her to a nursing home.
A grandson carried her to the porch
one morning—wanted to believe she'd grasp
chair, hibiscus, breeze.
The photo we can't look at now
amplifies what we couldn't see then:
her mummy-like body, bone showing through
hands like the underside of a leaf.
Yes, the days were being marked for her, but
none of us guessed there would be only three.

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