“Waking Up in California” by Jennifer Novotney

My mother is already up
long retired from work, she putters around
her house all day, buying things and giving them away
calling friends, taking short walks
keeping herself busy in the hot heat of the desert
where other retirees go, just like her
to fritter their remaining days away.

Light streams through the kitchen windows
illuminating her weathered, wrinkled face
lines stretching across vast universes.
She covets a glass, the ice cubes clinking
against the side when she brings it up to her lips
holding it there briefly to take a sip.

The curtains blow gently in the breeze
she brushes her hair behind her ear
clutches the newspaper, pulls it close
to her squinting eyes, mouthing the words as she reads.
I wonder how long she’s done this
had a morning brandy to go along with the paper
sat there in her robe and slippers 

the air still crisp from the evening glow
when headlights fill the empty space in the living room
her eyes glass by then, slowly, softly closing.

Jennifer Novotney holds an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. Her poetry is forthcoming in Young Ravens Literary Review and has appeared in Buddhist Poetry Review, Poetry Quarterly, and The Vignette Review, the latter for which she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2014, she won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for her debut novel, Winter in the Soul. She grew up in Los Angeles, California and lives in North East Pennsylvania with her family where she teaches English.

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One thought on ““Waking Up in California” by Jennifer Novotney

  1. Jennifer Novotney’s poem struck me after just visiting my mom who, due to dementia, cannot be in her own home now. I realized how long it can take to fade away. The first stanza bustles with activity. The final two stanzas slow the action way down. The active verbs resort to illuminating, stretching, holding, gently blowing, squinting, mouthing. As the evening glows, her eyes are
    slowly, softly closing. I witnessed all Mom’s slowing on my visit. Finding Ms. Novotney’s poem, I appreciate how visceral my mom’s remaining time feels to me and, possibly, similar to her, day to day.

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