Sunday, December 13, 2020

days and days

there is no darker territory than the no man's land between life and death..

photo by Adrian Kirkegaard at Unsplash

days and days

should i say that the clock in the ward
has stopped working? that someone should fix it?
that the people in the beds don't care,
because the days that have passed
are all but dim memories and time is
meaningless, or all of everything?

my mother, she is asleep in that hospital bed
holding a half-eaten biscuit. i cannot bear
to wake her, i am tired from a day's work,
i want to feed her the porridge i brought
and i look at this frail woman, my mother,
her fingers curled stiff like talons and
the dried bits of rice on her bedsheets,
there is an ache in the heart
the pain i cannot understand.

should i say that this is not fair,
that the day would carry on its usual
business as i walk out of the gates?
should i tell that she woke up and
tried to call my name, that the smile
she gave me broke my heart?


Update 16 July 2021 -
I wrote this as a submission for an anthology of poetry about palliative care (open to 26 Asia Pacific countries and territories, in 15 languages). Yes, it made it into the anthology. 😃

"in my eyes my mother is dying and yet all i am thinking are the numerals stenciled on the oxygen tank and all the while the night is still raining,"

- dsnake1, mother (it's about not giving up)

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2020

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Blogger C. Sandlin said...

Amazing -- you capture the taut attention of grief, small things pouring through a larger emptiness.

13 December, 2020 23:05  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Thank you, Chrissa!
"small things pouring through a larger emptiness" : i like that. :)

13 December, 2020 23:43  
Anonymous Ron. Lavalette said...

Almost two decades ago, moments before she closed her eyes for the last time, hours before she passed, my mother looked at me and smiled. Your work here, recording those moments, brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you.

13 December, 2020 23:51  
Blogger Helen said...

No words will convey how deeply this touched me, my heart/my soul. My experiences with a mother who lived her last years like the mother you describe ... my own reactions/emotions wrapped around it all. A tremendous poem.

14 December, 2020 00:27  
Blogger Gillena Cox said...

"should i say that this is not fair,"

Grief ponders such a question. It is human and natural

Thanks for dropping by my blog today


14 December, 2020 00:59  
Blogger Magaly Guerrero said...

Well, it made it right into my heart. It explores the type of heartbreak my husband and I have been feeling these days. My father-in-law's dementia is getting worse and worse, to the point that it might be dangerous to keep him away from professional care. But there are so many stories like the one in this poem... Sigh.

14 December, 2020 01:15  
Blogger indybev said...

This hit close to home. A captivating capture of grief/pain/love/anguish.

14 December, 2020 02:02  
Blogger colleen said...

Ah, I feel this, the crumbs and all. Really well told and sweetly sad.

14 December, 2020 04:58  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

And also you capture the helplessness of grief.

14 December, 2020 05:14  
Blogger Old Egg said...

Relatives and other visitors often have this feeling. Obviously it is worse with relatives but also for oneself as there is virtually nothing you can do yourself...except smile and chat with them.

14 December, 2020 06:41  
Blogger Old Egg said...

Sadly as we get older there is the likelyhood that we will be in the same situation saying goodbye to much loved relatives. Yes, it has happened to me and it is part of one's life experience with though sad you will glad you were there in days to come.

14 December, 2020 08:38  
Blogger Marja said...

A very touching poem The last line "that the smile
she gave me broke my heart" This pulled on my heart strings

14 December, 2020 09:27  
Blogger Old Egg said...

Having been at the bedside of both family and friends I can vouch for the feelings we have as life carries on regardless of your grief. Lucky are those that have not had to hold the hand of a dying relative in their lives.

14 December, 2020 10:06  
Blogger Priscilla King said...

After more than fifteen years, the memory of leaving my husband in palliative care still hurts.

*But I'd do it again.*

Going through the pain with the one who's dying is better than trying to put it off by abandoning the person.

14 December, 2020 11:41  
Blogger Jenna said...

This really caught my attention. How sad though!

14 December, 2020 13:41  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


those moments will always stay with us...


it certainly hurts, to see a mother suffering like that.


yes, it is only human and natural.

14 December, 2020 16:13  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


sorry to hear about your father-in-law's dementia. My grandfather-in-law had Alzheimer's, and it was a real challenge looking after him by the family.
and yes, there are so many stories like the one in the poem.


Thank you!


the one detail i remembered well are the food; whole trays of untouched food, the crumbs and rice on the bedsheets, the stacks of crackers the patients said they will eat, but never will.

14 December, 2020 16:35  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


one would feel so helpless too.


we are appreciative that relatives come to visit. there is really nothing much we can do.
and sadly, as you pointed out, as we get older, there will be more goodbyes to be said to loved relatives.
thank you for your comments.

14 December, 2020 16:43  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


thank you!


yes, holding the hand of a dying relative, one will experience sadness, hopelessness, fear, even anger.


"Going through the pain with the one who's dying is better than trying to put it off by abandoning the person."
i guess that's the least we can do for them. going through the pain with them.

14 December, 2020 17:17  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Thank you, Jenna!

14 December, 2020 17:23  
Blogger Susie Clevenger said...

This goes straight to my heart. It reminds me of the days I visited my mother who had Alzheimer's. There weren't many smiles, but when she did I treasured each one.

15 December, 2020 03:58  
Blogger Lisa said...

Wonderful put. As others have said, I too fed my mother her last meal (asparagus soup) and held her hand as she died. I wouldn't have missed that experience, it was for her.

15 December, 2020 10:30  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


those smiles are really precious. my mother had a stroke, and then kidney problems, but she tried to smile whenever i visited.


i held my mother's hand when she was dying too, and that experience was unforgettable. :(

15 December, 2020 20:45  
Blogger Helen said...

'the smile she gave me broke my heart' ... heartbreaking indeed. Congratulations to you, well earned!!!

26 July, 2021 01:24  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Thank you, Helen. :)

26 July, 2021 15:25  

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