Any Day

The phone vibrates twenty-seven times
between Beowulf and lunch.  I 
snap each time. Students always know.
They look at me carefully, compassionately.  

I dial the number. Wait. “What, Mom?”

Labored intake:  “Took you long enough.”

She says the chicken’s spicy.
She says she’s always alone.
She says no one cares if she lives.
She is my dying mother.

I listen, stare at the wall,
wait for the tears to subside.

Beowulf.
He had it easy.				
Monsters and a dragon?  
Any day.

*