Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
 print version

July at Rose Blumkin
     memory unit, Home for the Aged

Even this early in the morning,
heat breathes heavily against the panes
& the light’s a white flame that warps
the glass of this picture window
overlooking the “wander garden”

& its border of young maples & beyond them—
I swear—gravestones rising

from the mist in the cemetery
just across the road. We’ve arrived
to find your father dozing here,
in the television room, deaf
to the chattering loop of Lucy reruns

flickering the big screen & the rhythmic
nonstop barking of the woman

slumped in the wheelchair
closest to it. At ninety-two, his skin’s
almost translucent & his arms
are mottled with bruises the bitter
purple of ruined eggplants, & nearly

that large, a sorry map of needle sticks
& places where he’s rested too long

against his walker. When he wakes
he knows us, but not our names,
what year it is, or how to call up sense
& syntax from the ruptured channels
harrowing his brain. Not all

he says is gibberish: This is the shits,
he tells us. We’re not doing this again.

A man named Buddy, still dapper
in pressed jeans & a turtleneck, agrees.
Some daughter must do his laundry.
Mostly the men & women here
are incontinent, & like your father,

mostly they refuse to eat.
The young nurses are mostly kind,

some of them lovely, as they crush pills
into applesauce for spoon feeding,
offer juice boxes, & speak softly
to their charges, who doze
& nod, tremulous as dandelion puffs,

on the frail stalks of their necks.
It’s hard to leave, & you give your father

your hand, tell him how many days
it will be until you return.
He repeats the number, three,
& seems to understand, & though all
his life he was a man uneasy

with affection, now bends
to kiss your fingers, courtly & sad.    

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