Mother died today. Age took her. Rage took her. Toenails still unclipped. Hair in knots. Slurred speech, gone. A devil’s face. Cold to touch. Dusty bedside water. Threadbare cotton pillowcase. Air still sooty. Move the body. Featherweight as deadweight. Makes a thud. Makes me laugh. No more wheelchair. No more velour. No more wiping. No more broths. No more tea. No more orders. More for me. Empty the house. Clean the house. Fuck this house. Sell the house. Finally set free.

10 Comments

  1. sara lippmann

    Hi Kristen, I love your take on the three word sentence prompt. (And I love that you — and Meg! — took the first line from Camus and made it uniquely yours.) The exercise forces a kind of mercilessness on the line, and choice imagery (a devil’s face. cold to touch.) The select use of repetition is effective, it compiles, it snowballs, the rage of mother roiling into the rage of kin, until the narrator too is set free (though, I’m not sure we need the line set free, as I would argue that is implicit. Like, what if the kicker was “Clean the house. Sell the house. Fuck this house.”

    I do wonder if there might be space to poke at this mother-child relationship a bit more. The toxicity and liberation. And how caring for our dying is so fraught and loaded — which isn’t to say i want much backstory or context but perhaps there is another beat or two that might crack this baby wide open. “More for me” implies some kind of erasure that might have transpired as the child cared for this mother in her dying. And the takeaway is a righteous reclamation of self. Keep pushing!

  2. Randal Houle

    Kristen,
    This is so gorgeous and reminds me of Sharon Olds “The Glass” both express loss but also the fraught relationship with a dying/dead parent. Loved the first part “Age took her. Rage took her” it sets up so much that I think you dodo accomplish and can do so much more – i look forward to seeing this again somewhere. Thank you for this.

  3. Jenn Rossmann

    Kristen, I really like the rhythm of this, the way you vary your three-word sentences just a bit and transform them. (Just one letter changes so much: “Age took her. Rage took her.”) I’m going to second Sara’s editing suggestion on the conclusion — for me the fact that the narrator has been set free is coming through powerfully without being said explicitly.

  4. Todd Clay Stuart

    Kristen, the progression of this. Not knowing where it’s headed, but it blows past duty, through resentment, and lands in redemption and freedom. Parent relationships are complicated and this perfectly illustrates the complex emotion swirling around an event like this. Good work!

  5. Jonathan Cardew

    What a fantastic opening three sentences: “Mother died today. Age took her. Rage took her.” Loved the jerky rhythm of this piece, the abruptness of death, the end of a routine. I feel like you could continue the “No more…” refrain until the end, just go crazy with it.

    Great piece!

    –Jonathan

  6. Nancy Bauer-King

    Whoa! Your three word sentences are well done and describes a death scene with accurate details. The relationship between mother and narrator is haunting and succinctly told. Thank You.

  7. David O'Connor

    Kristen, the staccato here really captures the underscoring emotion which culminates in the last few lines. So economic too, from Camus to freedom in just a few lines, well done. Powerful writing.

  8. Meg Tuite

    Kristen! WOW! LOVE THIS! “Move the body. Featherweight as deadweight. Makes a thud. Makes me laugh. No more wheelchair. No more velour. No more wiping. No more broths. No more tea!” I worked hospice for years and DAMN did you get it all with such precision and compression! This is outstanding! I hope you’ll send it to a micro contest. This is a winner! LOVE!

  9. Laurie Marshall

    So many truths here, and the grieving set into clipped sentences is perfect. If there are too many words the emotion takes over (in rl and fiction), so it seems like the structure keeps the narrator in a place of control. Or attempting it. I agree with Sara about that last couple of lines.
    Well done.

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