I called my mother
because I was alone in the park
because everyone was inside
because it was quarantine
in the time of coronavirus
and they must have walked their dogs earlier
but I prefer sunset
for the designs the pine needles make
in the melting sky.
I said, I hope you're not going out
and she said, Well, I do still go to the clubhouse,
but my allergies are bad so I can't even
walk there and back without crying.
Oh, her ordinary allergies!
I can see her eyes streaming and feel
her irritation emanating from the sink
where she washes the dinner dishes regardless.
I say, You can't believe how eerie it is to live
in this town without you, especially now.
I don't say this.
Instead, I ask about Kenny Rogers
and how she's taking his death.
She says, and of course she knows this,
Well, he's had dementia for years.
And then, proud of her own cleverness,
she tells me she told my dad at breakfast
that Kenny really knew when to fold them.
So I tell her my own Gambler story,
how after I read the news, I called my son,
even though he was just upstairs,
and sang, On a warm summer's evening,
and he joined in, On a train bound for nowhere.
I hadn't thought how far we would get,
but the song is so good,
so The Gambler and Matthew and I
took turns a-starin' out the window at the darkness.
I like it when The Gambler says,
Son, I've made a life out of readin' people's faces
because then Matthew is the son
and I am The Gambler,
and I have made a life out of this,
as you have, Mom.
I think that's how far we got
when Matthew said, Wait,
why are we doing this? and I said,
Oh, because Kenny Rogers died,
which I had in fact forgotten,
and Matthew gasped,
Mom, how could you do that?
You made me so happy
and then so sad.
Laura Read is the author of Dresses from the Old Country, Instructions for My Mother's Funeral and The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You. She served as poet laureate for Spokane from 2015-17 and teaches at Spokane Falls Community College.