Pectoriloquy |

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Nikki Stiller, PhD
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Editor’s Note: The author writes: “My mother was mortally ill with Parkinson Disease. I was very grateful to the (mostly foreign) women who took care of her during that trying time. I am a retired professor of English.”

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).

© 2011 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2011;140(5):1383. doi:10.1378/chest.10-3345
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She is washed,
powdered, creamed
by half a dozen hands.
Hands of women,
fat or lean,
from Russia, Lithuania,
or the capable islands
where the women
must wrest happiness
from unfaithful men
sweet as coconuts and love talk.
Their movements
fill the room with calypso
as they wash and scour
and ply a broom
as if it were
a musical instrument.
For $5.75 an hour they make
the whole place fragrant with AJAX
and other magic powders,
nor do they stint on love,
giving my son their food,
calling my mother “Mama”
as they wash the weariness
from her body.
They have restorative powers.
I rest in the crook
of their motherliness
as they fold the laundry.
When I was weak
from my hip operation,
our Elana stayed to bring me
bouillon in the night,
and rub my feet.
I rest in the hum
of their diligence,
making the small things right,
though the large ones are askew.




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