by Gibbons Ruark
The door swings to behind me and I smell,
Among thick vapors from the hidden bedpan,
The roses and the rubbing alcohol.
You lie propped up on a pillow. The fan
Whirrs slowly as you blink your eyes and stare
At my wife and daughter. Surely you can
Recognize me, it was only last year . . .
You want to hold the baby, hold her as
You held me, held my father, but now your
Limbs are wasted and you shudder when we ease
Her onto your lap. When you start to sing
The room dissolves in my wavering eyes
To the room on Jarvis Street where you bring
Vanilla cookies till I’m fast asleep.
Morning comes and I listen as you ring
Up the drugstore for a gallon of deep
Chocolate ice cream and a quart of milk.
In the afternoon we loll on the steep
Back yard and watch the tennis match, or walk
St. Mary’s Street to catch the downtown bus.
When you start singing I don’t want to talk . . .
What is it you’re singing? You stare at us.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide
Myself in Thee. Let the . . .Your chin drops as
You sink to sleep. The nurse leads us outside
Into the daylight and uneasy laughter.
Dear Nannie, I leave you drying in your bed
Like a bent straw fallen out of water,
Driving east through Raleigh with my strange wife
Holding in her arms my stranger daughter.