Two Poems




No Place Like



A nursing home? Hell, no! I’ll never 

go, my father says, damned waiting


room for death. But my mother says

she’s ready, she’s tired of endless chores,


the thieves, the cockroaches. Let me rest, 

please, she begs. He snaps back, you go


if you want. I’ll die here! – to the woman

married to him for sixty-two years, who never


takes a step without him, and he – near-blind,

refuses to feel his way around the house


but instead slams into walls

in broad daylight. We’re fine, they say,


stop worrying. I nod into the phone, but

I know that’s impossible. In their familiar


darkness they move like tortoises, worn

carapaces heavier than they can carry, step


painfully through rooms

that shudder with the passing


of truck and bus on the broadened

road below. I see their silvery tracks gleam


for a second in the moonlight or in the sweep

of garish headlights. Backs stiff, they watch


TV in the living room, listen for footsteps, ears

tuned to pick up the sound of my uneven


gait on the landing. Instincts honed

to hear the slightest stir above the constant


din, our not-so often arrivals at the turn

of the concrete stair, the thump


of luggage, trip of tired feet. But wary

always of strangers, drug


dealers at the door, the landlord’s

henchmen, the night’s given dangers,


their sleep is restless. Goodnight, I say,

sleep well, my darlings, I say,


as I imagine them turning out

the light, settling the sheets to cover


their bodies, mouths moving,

softly praying. Sending


blessings to each other, and to me –

across the oceans. How desperately


I pray that the heaviest knock

will never fall upon our doors.


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