Volume 2 of The Great American Poetry Show, the anthology I co-edit is just out. Here's my poem from the book.
I look toward my mother's bed
in its sunny spot by the window.
Her young nurse is smiling.
So is mother.
She lies in a blue hospital gown
printed with triangles, squares and circles
in shades of gray, burgundy and dark blue.
Her skin looks healthy.
Her thin, white hair brushed off her face.
After the nurse leaves, she looks at me
with wide eyes and asks,
"Do you want to play bridge? We need a fourth."
"I haven't played in years," I say
She accepts that excuse
and points her long painted nails
to two or three other people
she imagines in the room.
"They will play," she says.
I stroke her damp forehead,
holding her bony hand bruised from the needles
that had been stuck into it.
I brush my fingers down her white, silky legs,
now devoid of hair.
"Do I look a mess?" she asks.
The sun casts a shadow across her bed.
"No, you look wonderful," I say.
She smiles at me, not minding
that her mouth has no bottom dentures,
and brags how her cousins
tell her how good she looks
and how well-dressed she is.
Even here with her gown hiked up to her diaper,
I try to pull her gown down
but she keeps grabbing it.
I cover her with a sheet,
and sit down to watch her play cards.
"Six spades," she proclaims,
"Play out." I play out.
Using her night gown as her bridge hand,
she tries to lift off each pattern section
one by one as if it were a card
and place it on an imaginary table
in front of her.
I want to know what happened to her,
and what can be done about it.
"Hospitalitis," the nurse says.
She has seen it a million times before.
I go back to the bed and continue play-acting.
I am thankful too. Her mind is taking her to that other place
where she is young and beautiful
and lives on the west side of Chicago.
"I like this little room," she says.
"I'm glad," I say.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...