Book Review: 3 A.M. Poems

by Susan Aylward

In this contemplative and moving collection by Taos poet Phyllis Hotch, we travel through her experiences of remembrance and daily reality, alternately questioning and accepting the transition she’s going through. Mortality permeates her opening poem, “3 A.M.”:

The hour. 3 A.M. Nothing but a feeling, not of being dead because we, I, cannot know what dead feels like

Part 1 reveals her observations and feelings on her husband’s illness, change, love, fear, the inevitability of decline, and the gifted moments of connection in-between. In “Nightwatch”:

Some nights clouds drift
across the moon. This night
sky is saturated
with stars and I’m a whirling
part of the cosmos. His arm
stretches out to me and I
whisper wish you were here.

In Part 2 she shares portraits of her husband’s fellow nursing home patients, reflecting the toll aging and illness takes on their diminishing lives. The poem “Sy” reminds me of my Uncle Ricky, who was also a dapper young baritone:

Who does an old man sing to
when he wants to sing? The baritone that used to boom
now croaks
if he could he would
sing with the radio, smile
remembering when he changed
his shirt, combed his hair,
waited near the door.

Part 3 evokes deeper feelings about slowing down and saying goodbye to her marriage and life as it used be. In “The Places I Have Wanted to See”, she asks,

Why do I want to travel?
Last year I would sit on the edge of my bed getting dressed,
thinking I would die and not be ready.
Is this getting ready?
Is this running away?

About The Author: “Writing 3 A.M. has been her lifeline through the tumultuous waters of old age, helping her to find the beauty, comedy, and patience that accompany illness and loss.”