Before Her Wedding, My Mother Undergoes
Plastic Surgery at Sixty-Six

[audio link]

For four months in another state,
her bruised cheeks swelling,
she keeps her stitches silent,
strains when reading wedding etiquette books
for those who've once been widowed.

She has to quit words and what she tells
her children, what she lets go
into the space between them.
She is afraid of their voices,
how they might say
what is risky, what is serious
surgery at her age,
though her age is beautiful.

When she speaks of him,
her skin stretches tight
in her excitement
across uncut telephone lines
toward the children she does love
though they still can't see her face
glowing, scrubbed,
ready for what will come.

—Marjorie Maddox, Lock Haven, PA