No Words

I wrote the first draft of this piece right after my mother’s death in 1988 but the words continued to evolve over the years. In 2018, it was awarded first place in the adult creative nonfiction category and also Best-in-Show at Sinclair College’s 2018 creative writing contest. “No Words” was published in Flights.


The door to her room was slightly ajar. Through the long, narrow gap between the edge of the door and the wall, I saw her sitting at the foot of her bed. Poised. Ready. I’ve tried many times to reconstruct this scene, the brown housecoat she was wearing, the gold-rimmed glasses, the loose strand of hair—but everything comes to a halt when I get to her hands. Her moving hands, her busy hands. Was she marking up her students’ school essays? Or was she folding Abah’s freshly air-dried clothes, taking the few minutes she had before her Saturday meeting at the mosque? 

Something had obstructed my view that morning. Maybe it was the trim on the doorframe, maybe it was the dust along the edges of her bedroom door. All I know is that I didn’t see everything. 

I stood by the door.

She seemed upset and was silent when I told her I was leaving for work. Not one word. I sensed her hands pausing long enough to acknowledge my goodbye, and then they resumed—with purpose, with mission.

It was through this narrow, obstructed view that I last saw my mother alive.

No Words

If you’d like to continue reading, here it is in Flights 2018. My piece starts on page 50.

Want to read new blog articles when I post them? Or get monthly updates on my book? Here’s a way to do it.

* indicates required

I respect your privacy and will not share my list with anyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *