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.

85th Annual Greek Festival @ Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

Sept. 23-25, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
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