Fallen rock « Back

We drive sixty miles to Gold Beach.

My mother owns this beach, rubs it like you rub your foot.
She massages it with her mind, knows every rock, tide pool,
every spot where a sea anemone might hide.
She recites the site of every elk, deer, sanderling,
goose gull, cormorant. She knows the roads, the paths.
She can't walk but directs me where to walk on her behalf.

My mother owns these birds like you own the skin on your palm.
She knows fox sparrows, white crown, varied thrush,
towhee, pygmy nuthatch, flickers. Mom is an agate found on the beach
worn down, edges roughed off, worn - with perfectly manicured hands,
long nails from doing nothing - no dishes, no garden, no motion.
She is worn from moving her mind, her heart, her grief.

My father sits in the back seat and rests, eyes closed in exhaustion.
He has been with her since forever. Together, since before he tied her shoes
before lift chair, before walker, before commode, before wheelchair.
He remembers her like she remembers this beach. He tells her stories.
He fills her with life by reminding everyone who she was, what she
did, what she said when she could.

The sign says to watch for falling rock - right here on the line, the yellow line
beside the road. The language that is moving, that is walking, is deafness.
Her body is dumb, unspeaking. The language that is her body is stuttering,
gasping as walking goes away. Here her mind slips in and out of the present.
Her voice pulls in and out of sorrow. Her jaws don't work.
Swallowing begins to fail. She cannot bring a class to her mouth.

She is the fallen rock slipping to the beach and into the sea.