Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Dec-10-1996
  • Last revised: Jan-08-2007


This is a five-stanza poem about a daughter's visit to her ill and aging mother on the night before the mother's admission to a nursing home. The daughter is the narrator, but she tells us only so much about the kind of relationship they've had or her mother's present circumstances.

Readers are not sure of the nature of the mother's illness other than incontinence ("I peel off your plastic underwear"), an inability to feed herself ("You part / your lips, obedient to my spoon"), and an inability to speak ("Through the meal I talk and talk / to fill the hollows of your bones / with my futile voice"), but there is evidence that she understands what is going on around her ("Your shame / fills the room, rusty odor / of urine, the stains / down the front of your robe"). The poem ends with the daughter's frustration, resignation, and overwhelming sadness over the next morning's trip to the nursing home, and her own shame that she is unable or unwilling to care for her mother in the same way her mother cared for her aging father ("when your father broke his hip, / you kept him with you? Year after year / cleaned the bedsores opening their mouths / like red flowers?").


This poem is particularly illustrative of the dilemma middle-aged people face with their aging parents. It also illustrates the fear of a person being moved from her home to the finality of a nursing home: "as the dark / seeps around your bed you at last / grip my hand hard, not letting go, as though forever were a possible truth."

Primary Source

Black Candle



Place Published

Corvallis, Oreg.