That’s What You Say by Laurie Kuntz

That’s What You Say

My mother died
in a shared room
at a nursing home,

while aides sat in the illuminated pod
their white canvas shoes resting
on the cold tile floors.

Time of death was 4:38 A.M.
Death appears in a stormy river,
or on a placid lake shore.

Hours and minutes do not matter,

for death sets no alarm,
hurries no nurse to gently
palm a wrist and look for a pulse.
When we came to collect her clothes
that smelled of mold and brittle bones,
and gather her meager belongings:

a half filled bottle of ballet pink nail polish,
one earring, a hair clip, and a velvet box,
which once held a gold charm bracelet,
I imagine her calling for one of us
to pluck the coarse grey hairs
that protruded from her chin like thorns.

Lost in reveries of tasks and memories
when my sister’s tears broke,
the frail woman in the neighboring bed insisted

She went peacefully,

but how could she know?
What possible revelation
comes to witness at 4:38 in the morning?


Laurie Kuntz is a widely published and award winning poet. She has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net prize. She has published two poetry collections (The Moon Over My Mother’s House, Finishing Line Press, Somewhere in the Telling, Mellen Press), two chapbooks (Simple Gestures, Texas Review, Women at the Onsen, Blue Light Press). Her 5th poetry collection, Talking Me off the Roof, is forthcoming from Kelsay Press in late 2022. Many of her poems are a direct result of working with refugees in refugee camps soon after the Vietnam War years. Recently retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind. Visit her at: