Elegy for My Mother-in-Law

Elegy for My Mother-in-Law

Doctor Bo told her the news

pregnancy confirmed
no matter how unlikely

at her age, 84, admitted for
inability to control pain
only to have her exile

revealed in cancer’s return.
She is clearly concerned
who the father might be
so the nurses in oncology

throw a shower, a sheet cake
& some silly gifts to mask
all the plague worries for a
moment, secure in a bubble
of negative tests to pretend

new life is on the way &
that’s why we’re all here.
She is a grifter to the end,
dementia scale be damned,
she’s gonna keep stonewalling
like Nixon since

for her it’s still the seventies.
The last thing she will forget
is her feel for a long-game lie.
Her son keeps finding ammo
for guns she swears she never had.
Her secret lover in the service is
a swirl of pronouns she worries

might get furlough & arrive
& today she’s sure he’s not
her husband. Loveliness
in such lifelong fidelity:
toothless at the last
but still turning new
marks, working a story
even she can’t remember.

Ted Lord lives in Seattle where he works as a philanthropic sherpa, helping families and foundations with giving and nonprofits with planning. He is a past Executive Director of Humanities Washington and of the Pride Foundation. His work has appeared in North American Review, Nimrod, Indiana Review, Kansas Quarterly, and River Styx.

Leave a Reply