On Her Last Day

Renee Emerson


I watched the night lift
its heavy hand. Bathed
her like I forgot how
to bathe a child.

I couldn’t get the soap right,
the Johnson and Johnson lotion
on every inch—my hands will always
be as generic, as sweet.

My husband slept. How merciful
his body was to him.

My second youngest—
Is she your youngest?—
is too big now to pretend
she is a baby. I gently
rub the bottle nipple to her lips,
like a half said prayer,
and she laughs.

No ceremony to it, I bathe her
like I will the next day and the next;
in the foamy water she stretches
her legs, grown longer, blows bubbles
in the water, breath coming easy
from her lungs. As easy as laughter
when night is something you sleep through.



Renee Emerson is a homeschooling mom of seven, and the author of Church Ladies (forthcoming from Fernwood Press, 2022), Threshing Floor (Jacar Press, 2016), and Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014). Her poetry has been published in Cumberland River Review, Windhover, and Poetry South. She adjunct teaches online for Indiana Wesleyan University, and blogs about poetry, grief, and motherhood at www.reneeemerson.com.