September 11, 2014 

Thirteenth anniversary and my mother’s 
95th birthday.  Before leaving for work, 
I dial her at the Care Center. A nursing 
assistant carries the phone to her room, 
but my greeting can’t cut through her deafness. 
Thirteen years ago when her faculty 
of hearing was intact, she sounded 
scandalized that I’d even thought to call. 
“You should be watching the TV!” Driving, 
I feel gloomy. On a freeway overpass 
people in what look like fire-fighter or 
military uniforms energetically 
shake flags. Bless their hearts, but I don’t 
honk. Who does?  In the west, a waning, less- 
than-full moon hovers near the horizon 
in blue sky between banners of cloud. 
The moon, the same chalk-white as the clouds, 
is beginning to set, making me 
wonder where and for whom it is now 
rising. For whom in this wide world does 
the moon shine bright? Now it is slowly 
lowering into clouds, this moon that is not 
any less real for its disappearance 
in the soft white that borders the rim of 
our planet. For a moment I can still 
differentiate its curve from the top 
of the cloud layer, and then I cannot. 
The flag-shakers even if they stay on 
the overpass all day eventually must 
leave. One day even an occupying army 
has to go home. I stop at a light, 
lay a dollar in a homeless black man’s 
hand, tell him, “It’s my mother’s birthday.” 

Thomas R. Smith
Illustration Nick Victor


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