The daughter gathered

her aged, newly widowed mother in her arms,

giving comfort in her own need

to be comforted.

The elder one disdained emotional displays,

had done so all her life.

Now, tear ducts atrophied,

salty juice of grief and life withdrawn,

the soil of her spirit was parched

into cracked clay fragments,

inert dry islands.

She would not grieve

her husband’s death.


So the daughter, weeping, held the mother,

elder’s head cradled beneath her girlchild’s chin.

The daughter’s fresh wet tears slid down

the wrinkled cheeks

of she who could not cry:

daughtertears for


and motherdry.




Cynthia Trenshaw worked as a nationally certified chaplain for two Midwestern hospitals in oncology, emergency, and children’s psychiatry units. In San Francisco she served the people of the streets, offering them skilled massage therapy and compassionate presence under the viaducts and in the homeless shelters of the city. Now living on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, she is a midwife for the dying at Enso House, a Zen hospice. Her memoir of these experiences, Meeting in the Margins: An Invitation To Encounter Society’s Invisible People, was published in October 2015 by She Writes Press (Berkeley). She blogs regularly at cynthiatrenshaw.com.