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Lullaby at Dawn
by Jo Taylor

I remember it was your college years.
A weekend at home, and you were sleeping
in. An act of mutiny for your grandmother
who had raised nine children during
the Great Depression and the war years
and who had never slept past sunup
in the nine decades of her life. She simply
could not contain herself. Now that one
don’t do nothin’.

Today in this global pandemic, I see
you working the night shift,
your big brown eyes behind shield
and N-95, and I swell with pride. I hear
your stories from the ICU, about another
granddaughter facetiming you to help
her say goodbye to her beloved matriarch,
your sobs and chest heaves clouding
the plexiglass masque like steam rising
from a body of water after a summer rain;
about a coworker holding her sibling’s hand
every day, exhorting him to return to life;
about the young nursing student with whom
you feel a special affinity, rallying when iron
lung and human spirit and the Divine mesh
for a miracle.

And for the record, my daughter, as Aurora
signals the end of yet one more long night,
I suggest there are other kin beaming
and bragging and swelling with pride.
If you close your eyes and lean in quietly,
you might hear the aged one humming
“Brahms’ Lullaby” from across the Milky Way.
I bet she is whispering, Sweet dreams.

PHOTO: The author’s daughter, Cortney Wade, at the hospital where she works.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Lullaby at Dawn” was written to recognize my daughter’s contribution to alleviating suffering during the coronavirus pandemic. She is a perfusionist, who, in normal times, is part of a heart surgery team, but who in these days also works with COVID patients who rely on the ECMO (a machine that circulates blood through an iron lung, allowing the body to rest). Her stories are both heartwarming and heart-wrenching.  Needless to say, her work makes a mother proud.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it. She writes to bear witness, to give testimony to the past and to her heritage. She has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Silver Birch Press, Poets Online, Literary North, Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, and One Art.