Efficiencies. So many
Noises. Good God.
This one for that and
That one for this and
they are all twelve years old
And they are all super cute,
Hip, snappy, right on time with
Charm to lose like a wealth of smile,
It won’t hurt to overflow a bucket
Of warmth on the individual suffering
an existential moment of
“I hope I wake up,” “I’m sorry for everything,” and “I wish I had moved to Brooklyn.”
Cold hard stone passages, hallway arteries
carry husbands and wives of a certain age
To the kind of customary surgeries that result from
A life of purposeful personal care neglect
Mixed with genetic predisposition to whatever has slunk
About the system since long before Mom slept with Dad.
The bodies are chunky and broken,
Long beards and nose rings,
Tight jeans and gut spills,
Pale pink knit Mom tops and
Peony scattered polyester pedal pushers,
Reeking of smoke and
Looking a lot like — well, to be honest —
A helluva lot more than that’s
Been going on all these years.
It does add up.
There are vague looks of worry.
The aloneness of some feels like they are already ghosts.
Many are accompanied by armies of relatives,
Cousins, brothers, aunts, mamaw,
Support-troops in the rare case that their loved one
Comes under fire from an enemy that
looks oddly like life.
The family-care specialist
Makes sure to have at least
one of their phone numbers.
They fill the consulting room awaiting
arrival of their very own hip, snappy twelve year old
Who will provide a confident, detailed explanation of
Is he going to make it or isn’t he?
Questions in broken farmer English
Are softly asked.
Nervous laughter of relief wafts from the room.
All those who wait, twitching within earshot
Of the troops in the nearby bunker, feel it and think
this will be a good day after all.
Perhaps we will survive the battle
Thup thup thups among the
Beep beep beeps and the
Quavering and shouted, “somebody help me”s.
Lifeline is here, aiming, afloat, and aiming again.
We hold our breath as the mind, watching, wanders
to car wrecks and handyman accidents,
Stupid Dad tricks and incidents of child abuse.
The Lord said, Go in peace and be freed from your suffering,
Pray the agnostics in the room watching.
The tonnage of wasp alights
upon an oddly bright, wide expanse of cement as
Attention is torn by a sensory assault charging the room:
In the wrong place.
At the wrong time.
I think I’m gonna die.
Oh the indignity of an ill-timed bodily function.
There but for the Grace of God, as they say.
The red-shirts scramble.
She’s all alone and so frightened.
How can all these children help her, she manages to wonder,
via the few very small spaces still available for hysterical thought in her plaque pocked brain.
Worry and fear.
Sadness and the urge to get the hell out of here,
As if whatever is happening to everyone
in the freezing identical rooms that emit
bups and yeeps and yelps and sobs
The bumpy stop-stop ride
to the East side and out of town
via 2nd Street commences.
We depart the strangers writhing in rooms, in pain, in apprehension.
There is a place in Wisconsin called Holy Hill.
The long drive up the road to the church passes
Fields and a diner.
The church is brick, stoic, a curiosity
Lording over empty land.
The sanctuary is cold hard stone.
On the right wall as one faces the altar
is a bar stuffed with wheelchairs, crutches.
Post-it notes from the healed cover the walls.
Thank you Lord Jesus!
Curiosity sated, the car that traveled up
Now travels down and
And rolls directly into the parking lot of the diner.
Waiting for a tow, a conversation ensues with
teenagers pouring iced tea behind the cold, hard counter.
What do you do for fun around here?
“Well, there’s a movie theater up the road”, she said.
“When I was in high school”, he blurted with odd urgency
to the unusual stranger stuck on a stool,
“my Dad asked me to get up early to help him with the farm,
because he was going to lose it to the bank.
But I didn’t. And he lost the farm.
So now I just read my Bible…but
I’ve always wanted to live in Brooklyn!”
Patricia Krahnke, for Poplar Grove Muse