I Didn’t Ask Her to Sing for Me

by Rebecca Ethridge

When she asked me to sing her to sleep
in the half-moon light of nights we lay
side by side with lullabies she had taught
and I ignored, the ones meant to keep us
warm when the cold dozed low,

when she asked me to sing
with my half-awake melodies mumbled
through my angry lips, my dreams
of unconsciousness lost—the way she
drifted off with those pills before bed—

when she asked me to sing her to sleep
in the van as we drove from Florida
to North Carolina, to raise my voice
over the noise of the road, her good ear
down where she curled on the floor,

when she asked me to sing
above her wakened pain, just me
without the radio, my notes changing
channels to seek the right song, my static
breath somehow giving her relief—

when she asked me to sing her to sleep
with the metronome drip of the IV,
her eyes heavy with a death dream,
my sound small
compared to the bleating machines—

even then, she asked me to sing,
but because my voice had tucked
itself in—that unwilling blanket—
and fell fast asleep in grief,
I couldn’t.

Rebecca Ethridge is originally from Central Florida, but upon craving mountains and changing seasons, she moved to Asheville, North Carolina. She tutors and teaches students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College about all aspects of the writing process. Rebecca enjoys writing poetry that interweaves time, memory, and place.

About I Didn’t Ask Her to Sing for Me—This poem emerged from an assignment that asked us to write in the When/Then form. I found this form to be a wonderful way to connect memories with present reflection.