SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Her Last Words by Joan Colby

She half-stood after dinner, said

Six words and seized

Like the old Packard following

The shrieking squad car

With Annie in the back seat,

Her appendix rupturing, the oil light

Coming on, unnoticed.


Gabriella said Your mother is dead now,

We trundled her to her room,

Laid her down. I could swear

She was still breathing, but it was

Just the final bodily functions

Shutting down like gears freezing

Ungreased, the rattle of the

Radiator hissing its last

Exhalation. What was it she said

Standing there, surprised,

Her voice gone thick.


Last words. You expect

Profundity. Or an image:

The spiritual bird on an updraft.

Surely, I think now when the light suddenly

Flares and dims at the archway to

Something or nothing, in that ancient

Turtle mutter,a primeval tone

Before civilization mustered

Columns of rationality,

She might have enlightened us.


But there was nothing

Significant. Nothing to bequeath.

No evidence. She said

I want to go to bed

So firmly there was no denying

The order. We shouldered her

Into the darkness.


Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic, Verse Daily, and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 20 books, including Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press), which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize, and Ribcage (Glass Lyre Press), which was awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her Heartsongs is forthcoming from Presa Press in 2018. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Good Works Review.Website: www.joancolby.com

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