My Mother’s Penmanship Lessons

In her last notes, when her hand began
to tremble, my mother tried to teach it

the penmanship she was known for,
how to make the slanted stems

of the p’s and d’s, the descending
roundness of the capital m’s, the long

loops of the f’s crossed at the center,
sending it back again and again

until each message was the same:
a record of her insistence that the hand

return her to the way she was before,
and of all the ways the hand had disobeyed.

Hear Wes McNair read this poem.