Elder

Each month they get more frail,

the elders I know.

Shining for the hour of the visit

in pride and love, in gracious conversation,

to retire wearily

to the mattress pressed into a cradle

by overlong afternoon naps.

 

My father can’t see well

Mother’s haunted by overripe fruit in all she smells

My aunt, by her husband recently gone, the walls of home get her down.

An uncle is all bones, he’s lost his sporting form…

And another who simply wishes to die:

 

At lunch, his brown hands large as plates, like tree trunks lined and veined

cup the air laxly as it rains, sudden and heavy, outside.

 

A word stirs him. The name of the town he grew up in

hails a storm of stories from childhood and youth.

He tells of wise doctors who healed the poor,

trees laden with purple fruit,

men of true grain who built palaces

and sired strong sons and daughters

whose laughter echoes in the courtyards

of a verdant heart.

 

Purple and green, warm things,

lost to him whose days call up a death-like sleep;

and spirit, huddled in its skeletal crib,

docks at this last stop, lonely.

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