Issue 1
My Mother Advises Me to Get a Mani/Pedi

My Mother Advises Me to Get a Mani/Pedi

The last few days in the hospital
were a—she hesitates—it sounds
crazy, she knows—a nice change
of pace—not nice, she says, but—

and trails off. 87, blind, unsteady
anchor of her walker, her rope
frayed, stripped clean by sharks,
De-pends afloat like unclaimed

life jackets—or abandoned.
On the phone hundreds of miles
away—she keeps pushing the mute
button by mistake and I have to
call again and it’s busy. She curses
the phone, its invisible buttons.

We got it for her because she can call us
by shouting her name into it.
I don’t know how many times
she shouted Call Jim today.
In the hospital they had to chip

off the nail polish on her index finger
for the ET monitor that makes it
glow. She gets them painted bright
as ambulance lights. Sirens. My sister
is taking her out today to get them

redone. Mani/pedi, she says.
I’m stressing over the usual
betrayals of my job, the disappearing
of dollars, the wild kites of my children
the insomnia crows hovering

over the headboard like they did
for her for years until the pills
kicked their asses. Poison,
but she’s 87, damn it.
As long as she’s not
mute. The rocky road of her voice
recommends the mani/pedi.
Most days, no one touches her.
Not my dad, studying the maps
of places he’ll never find again.

It’s not all sadness and fake moon-
light. Some days there’s the hospital
and more tests. They’re getting closer
and closer to things lasting forever
but not people. Not people
who can see and walk. I listen
and watch dead leaves skitter
over the sidewalk here where I’m at.
Stress, she says, I can hear it in your voice.
They massage your feet.
It feels so good.

She can kind of see the distorted blur
of color, along with the hallucinations
she can still usually identify as such.
They were nice to me in the hospital,
she said, and the food is better. What
they eat at home—we’ve all gone over it
and her guardian angel is no help.
I tell her I don’t want any color
on my nails. She knows that.
Nobody touches her except
to keep her from falling.
They massage your feet.
It feels so good.
I’m sure it does, I say
but she’s gone
and pushed the mute again.
Then briefly back: CALL JIM,
she shouts, then gone again.
She’s on repeat, though
there’s no button for that.

I don’t call her back again.
I’m glad she’s home. Nothing
more to say right now. Is there?
She’s busy. That’s the way
these things usually end.

Jim Daniels’ latest publications are the chapbook, Apology to the Moon (BatCat Press, 2015), Eight Mile High, stories (Michigan State University Press, 2014) and Birth Marks, poems (BOA Editions, 2013). Daniels is the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor at Carnegie Mellon University.