Visiting Hours (for Carole)


by Lani T. Montreal

I was not expecting
to see Lake Michigan so blue
between tall scrapers casting
hooded shadows at 5:04, St. Patrick’s day;
you, a pale yellow, crumpled in despair
‘neath wrinkly worn-out sheets, fatigued,
turning on your side, a chore,
talking, all the more;  I wondered
if I’m imposing my presence
on you. My being here,
but you wanted me to stay
and we talked about folks at work, my kids,
the day I got married, and
there was no music, so everyone sang –
dan dan dadan, dan dan dadan…
My fake wedding that has lasted 15 years.
I told you I couldn’t think of any other way to get married,
and you agreed, smiling, because laughing would have hurt.

My mother was in a coma
same time last year,
but I do not dare remind you
two weeks I stayed with her almost every night,
without the privilege of
“not wanting to see her like this”
not like my siblings who saw her most days,
some not her best; often made her smile when
she wasn’t feeling up to it.
We had honeymoon days, she and I,
the week-long sweetness between us
lathered over past battles, having
discovered our humanity across the ocean;
that’s what distance does, I suppose.
But you do not think you’ll have that
with your little one. No decided discoveries
between you two; only nine and mutinous,
you sulked over her overextended iPad use,
but I promised you that things will be alright,
as if suddenly I’ve become an expert on childhood development,
and you simpered, because that’s all
the energy you have for, and we stayed silent
together as I tidied up,
arranged cold packs and heat packs in a pile,
threw out used hand wipes and half-eaten fruits,
as the sun sets on the other side of Chicago,
leaving but an orange line above the shimmering lake.

About the Author
Lani T. Montreal is a Filipina educator, writer, performer, and community activist based in Chicago. Her poems have been featured in journals and anthologies (among them, Rattle, Bloodstone, Garland Court Review, Love Gathers All, Pinoy Poetics, Hay(Na)Ku 15, and MiPoesias). In Fall 2018, Finishing Line Press published her first poetry collection: FANBOYS: Poems about Teaching and Learning. Lani writes poetry to create her home in the diaspora. She is the recipient of the 2015 3Arts Djerassi Residency for Playwriting, 2008 3Arts Ragdale Residency, the 2001 Samuel Ostrowsky Award for her memoir “Summer Rain,” and the 1995 JVO Philippine Award for Excellence in Journalism for her environmental expose “Poison in the River.” She is also a 2017 alumna of the Voices of Our Nation Arts (VONA) Writers’ Workshop and a 2018 alumna of the Poetry Foundation Summer Teachers Institute. A former journalist in the Philippines, Montreal currently teaches writing at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, and writes a blog called “Fil-in-the-gap” ( She lives and loves in Albany Park with her multi-species, multi-cultural family.

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