Norita Dittberner-Jax

Going Through the Boxes

I’m reading letters I saved,
cards and messages
from children, husbands,
the charm of well-shaped
language, and how they say it,
the handwriting of each,
a fingerprint, my mother’s looped
hand for my birthday, signing
for both of them, “Love
from Mother and Dad.”

I’m reading the log we kept
when she was bedridden
and he took sick, we spelled
one another and wrote it down,
medication, telephone calls,
a family crisis and comic relief.
Everything recorded, even the bottle
of Scotch brought to the family meeting.

I saved the best and the best
has outgrown the space. I’m weighed down,
I want to go lighter into the years.
What will I need for ballast against the tide
of old age? Should I save
the anniversary card of the couple
dancing with lamp shades
on their heads? We never danced
like that, but we were joyful.


Deluxe walker, awkward
as a small dinosaur
in our living room,
manual wheelchair, power
wheelchair to come,
paperwork, 18 pages.
A wedge for easier breathing,
gastric tube and its plugs,
gauze bandages, beaker
and syringe, bi-pap machine,
distilled water, the mask
and its proboscis, three
canes, bed rail and
the handicapped sign.

I hide the equipment,
won’t let it make any more
inroads than necessary,
even as he loses one
function after another.
When the end comes
these things will remain,
what I cannot love.

I want a private event
after the funeral, just me
and the things in an isolated
spot where, like a witch,
I will burn the combustibles.
Then with the unholy strength
I’m building, I’ll hurl the rest
in defiance over a cliff
into the deep.

norita-dittberner-jaxNorita Dittberner-Jax has published four collections of poetry, most recently, Stopping For Breath from Nodin Press. She has won numerous awards and fellowships, among them several nominations for the Pushcart. One of the poetry editors for Red Bird Chapbooks, Norita lives with her husband on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River.