by Sue Mell

Nine seconds to warm the applesauce for my mother’s morning medication. To wrestle my fury, replace it with a light-hearted care. Even as a kid I shied away from her clinging hand; now her need for me is bottomless. Nine seconds to watch the red-bellied woodpecker hunch his body around the feeder, the sparrows scattering with bitter complaint. To mentally revise my steps for the most efficient diaper change—wipes here, Desitin there, the wastebasket cradled in the bars of the rollingtable just so. Nine seconds to remember a time I had not taken this on. To ignore the man jogging freely past, his face mask dangling below his chin. To see the sunlight flicker as wind bends back the trailing spirea branches, setting tiny white petals adrift like snow. Then the beep of the microwave and on with the day.

Originally published in Cleaver Magazine. Click here to read Sue’s reflection on writing about caregiving.

Sue Mell is a writer from Queens, NY. She earned her MFA from Warren Wilson, and was a 2020 BookEnds fellow at SUNY Stony Brook. Her debut novel, PROVENANCE, won Madville Publishing’s 2021 Blue Moon Novel Award and was released in July 2022. Her collection of micro essays, GIVING CARE, won the 2022 Chestnut Review Prose Chapbook Prize, and her collection of short stories, A NEW DAY, was a finalist for the 2021 St. Lawrence Book Award. Other work has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere. Find her at and on Twitter @suemell2017

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