Bess Cooley
The Day My Parents Accept an Offer on My Childhood Home

is the day after they put it on the market.
          The realtors’ pictures didn’t

          look like home. They kept
nothing we had in that house where

my grandfather stayed,
          where before he fell asleep

          each night each of us made sure
he didn’t need anything,

then turned off the light.
          But days later, looking again, I see

          they did keep one thing of ours
in that bedroom: the comforter

my mother picked out when my grandfather
          came to stay for good. Gray,

          thin stripes. The realtors
must have liked it for its perfect

neutrality, because to them it didn’t say
          here someone lay

          while neurons in his brain mangled.
They didn’t see that brain under the machine.

I decide the headboard
          must be fake, the plant

          sitting on the radiator, silk.
Pillows, throw blankets all fake, then

the comforter, the stripes.
          It stays there in the spot

          where it warmed my grandfather, where he turned
under those same beams, above those floorboards

and outside in the doorway
          in the corner of that photograph I listened to him breathe.

Bess Cooley won the 2017 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize, and her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Western Humanities Review, The Journal, and Verse Daily, among other journals. A graduate of Knox College and the MFA program at Purdue University, she lives in Knoxville and teaches at the University of Tennessee, where she is also managing editor of online content for Grist and director of the Young Writers Institute.