Edie Watches the Tsunami from her Bed at Life Care Rehabilitation Center in Las Vegas, March 2011

By Paige Riehl

Through the window was the concrete parking lot. Cars
came and went as if the drivers couldn’t decide

whether to stay or go. She didn’t belong here, wanted
her Lay-z-boy and trailer, wanted her legs to hold her up.

The diaper made her mad. She flipped the television control,
looking for the weather, finding Nightly News and the angry wave 

sweeping 500 miles per hour across Japan’s coast,
swallowing houses, flipping boats over like bars of soap.

Without her glasses, it all looked blurry, as if someone
had wiped a hand across a wet painting, smeared 

it all to brown, the color of shitty diapers. She couldn’t
see clearly enough to wonder about the people who must 

have only had seconds to realize their own forecast,
the ocean rising up as if the world was quickly tilted,

death rushing toward them like a train. She had lived on
this earth so long, 94 winters, 94 summers. She wondered

if it was her time, said she had other plans, but who is
in control, after all? The sun shone brightly and nothing

had changed really, except that maybe this was it, maybe
it was the beginning of the end, maybe right then 

something began rolling quietly across the desert.
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About Paige Riehl

Paige Riehl grew up in rural South Dakota and now lives with her husband and son in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has published poetry and prose in publications such as Nimrod International Journal, South Dakota Review, Literary Bohemian, Word Riot, The Honey Land Review, and more. She was a finalist for the 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry sponsored by Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry as well as the 2011 River Styx International Poetry Contest. She was also a finalist for the 2011 Loft Mentor Series in Poetry sponsored by the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She teaches college composition, literature, and creative writing at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, located just north of Minneapolis. An avid traveler, Paige has traveled in 17 countries. She is currently working on a book of poetry.


  1. arlene g.
    Posted March 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    i really enjoyed this. It was so real, so vivid. I felt every moment in this elderly persons life(well that specific moment)

  2. Posted March 2012 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Is this our future — if we live long enough? I Love this poem.

  3. Zach Kamla
    Posted May 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I am a hospital worker and have watched the frustration of the sick so many times. This poem is perfect in its tone–not melodramatic like many end-of-life poems, but quite cynical–and the thoughts Edie vents at the moment are a still frame of the typical experience of so many patients. Kudos for capturing this voice.

  4. Jeff Chernoff
    Posted May 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Brilliant; a work of art. So much said in so few words, we’re placed in a complete and careful picture alongside Edie, and then the incredible final sentence explodes into the huge scope of a philosophy of life.
    Just beautiful.

  5. Posted June 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I love the literal frame of this poem, how she captures the stark contrast between two ways of meeting death, slowly, and surprisingly fast.

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