Listen, by Marilyn Zelke Windau


“She can hear you.
Keep talking to her,” the hospice nurse said.
“Hearing is the last of the senses to leave.”

I didn’t know the rules of dying.
I didn’t know about the dappling of feet.
That the closed eyes were rest, not death.

I played my mother tapes of Mozart,
of Debussy, Beethoven, Ravel—
background music in a nursing home
which tuned its radio to Kenny Chesney
at the nurses’ station.

She seemed to quiet to the classics.
I hoped they were right,
that she heard those comforting chords
of the masters she had played on the piano
of her church, her college programs,
at home with me and my siblings huddled,
listening beneath the baby grand,
in the living room, bought secondhand.

Now, years later, my first grandchild is born.
I watch this infant boy fall asleep
to my humming, to my singing, and rocking.

His mother, my daughter, imparts to me
what natal nurses told her—
that hearing is the first sense,
the strongest sense which life brings.

A baby cries!
He hears his own voice!
He claims his position,
his place in this world.

Life gives us an auditory gift
to welcome us, to encourage us,
to urge us onward at our beginning,
to soothe and sustain us later, finally.

Marilyn Zelke Windau is a Wisconsin poet and a former public school art teacher. She enjoys painting with words. Her poems and articles have appeared in many printed and online venues and several anthologies. Her chapbook Adventures in Paradise (Finishing Line Press) and self-illustrated manuscript, Momentary Ordinary (Pebblebrook Press) were published in 2014, and Owning Shadows (Kelsay Books) in 2017. She adds her maiden name when she writes to honor her father, who was also a writer.

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