Kristin Czarnecki, “Failure to Thrive”

Kristin Czarnecki is an English professor at Georgetown College and past president of the International Virginia Woolf Society. She has published essays on Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Louise Erdrich, and Leslie Marmon Silko, among others, in journals such as Woolf Studies Annual, College Literature, and the Journal of Feminist Scholarship as well as in edited volumes. In March, she published her first book, a memoir called The First Kristin: The Story of a Naming (Mint Hill Books label of Main Street Rag), about the experience of being named after a deceased sister.

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Failure to Thrive

88. That’s a good run.
It was clearly time.
Everything was
shutting down.
She was done.
She had a good life
and everyone has
to go sometime

Such are the
phrases I intone
to assuage my
guilty conscience
my lack of tears
since she died

Oh, I cried

over the years as she
became more decrepit
spinal stenosis
fractured pelvis
frequently fell
needed a cane
then a walker
then a wheelchair

I cried

during the last
six-week slide

when she stopped reading
when she stopped eating
when she made no sense
when she couldn’t hear me

And I cried

the weekend before she died
as we gathered around her bed
talking, reminiscing, holding
her hands

The room was stuffy
I don’t think
she recognized me
said everyone’s name but mine
asked questions of all but me
her pale blue eyes looked into mine
but didn’t seem to see me
she hallucinated

I tried

to find the poetry
in what she said
she thought she’d been kidnapped
said the three of us betrayed her
talked about the “inside room”
I didn’t know what
I was feeling
numb from so much loss

88. That’s a good run.
It was clearly time.
Everything was shutting down.
Her poor body and mind were done.

I don’t know how
to be without parents





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