Guilt Trip

In every phone call
with my mother
there comes a point
when dialogue
narrows to monologue,
and she insists
that she’d be
better off dead
than at the assisted living.
Usually, I
change the subject
to some cheerful
antic of a grandchild.
Lately, she’s begun
reminding me
that she never sees
her grandchildren,
that they couldn’t
pick her out
of a line-up.

She shuffles in
with other grandmothers
below a height chart,
under a glaring
white bulb, all
assisted living
escapees, wheelchair
hijackers, Jell-O king-pins.
My three-year-old
waves to her
behind the see-through
mirror, but grandmother
is stuck on the other side
of her reflection.
CNAs lead her away
with Adeline
and Bertie and Opal.

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and The New York Quarterly. He has four books of poetry, The Last Hippie of Camp 50 and Finding the Edge, published by Woodley Press at Washburn University, Wren’s House, published by Coal City Press in Lawrence, Kansas, and Cooking Chili on the Day of the Dead from Aldrich Press in Torrance, California. His fifth book, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released by New York Quarterly Books in 2014. He is an editor with The Little Balkans Review.

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3 Responses to Guilt Trip

  1. Pingback: Guilt Trip — Eunoia Review | Stevie Lynn

  2. maryfranceswagner says:


  3. Pam Terry says:

    so sad but true

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