by Catherine Arra

The Stain of an Angel


Sitting by the single window

a crescent moon in black leather, the woman

looks at the length of winter

and back to the morning coffee

she spilled on the beige carpet

now working itself into a considerable stain.


She’s ashamed of that stain

leaching into her dignity, a window

for all to see how old age carpets

down like concrete, cracks skin leaving a woman

no hope for lipstick, blush, a cosmetic like coffee

to stain back time and help her winter


over losses of husband and home. Winter

down this season of verticals that stain

palms and map roads ahead. A nice cup of coffee

in the morning helps. She sips it by the window

in the two-room senior home where the woman

must balance it from hardwood to carpet.


It’s there to trip her every time, that carpet

in the middle, a bull’s eye in the beige winter

of incontinence, meal seatings, dementia and a woman

she hardly recognizes. She turns away but the stain

betrays her, mocks her in the paned window

reflecting back the pooling darkness of cold coffee.


She remembers Papa, gone now, bringing his coffee

a freshly brewed demitasse, a biscotti, the salon carpet

rich wool, the Christmas tree in the center window

of holidays filled with children, grandchildren, winter

wonder, crystal glassware and wine to stain

linens she embroidered as a younger woman.


Papa comes to her now and she is again that woman.

Each night he says, Come with me and brings to her coffee.

He extends his hand, guides her past the stain

at the foot of the bed, treading softly over the carpet

to the door, down the hallway and into winter.

They pause a moment and look back through the window.




When he leaves, the woman lays below the window.

Her arms fan to sculpt the stain of an angel in the carpet

of snow that melts like hot coffee pooling in the center of winter.






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