Table of Contents - Vol. VIII, No. 3
The old man clung to her hand.
None of that "no daughter of mine" routine.
Severe arthritis forgave all past sins.
At 55, she could bring any boy home.
And she had learned tolerance if nothing else.
And the sacrifice it took to bathe his leather skin,
comb his frail gray hair, sit him hi a chair,
spoon feed mash to his crippled mouth.
And the tone in her voice was right out
of the convent And the touch, part familial,
part dried-eyed nursing home warden.
She wiped his chin like they were old dreams.
And he could barely remember her name.
Better that way. He didn't notice when he
garbled "Maria" and Anna came. Silly old fool,
she thought. Silly young fool, he called her once.
Do this until he dies, was the instruction she
gave herself. She wasn't giving up much. All
those early warnings came true right enough.
But still she hated him for giving them.
And now there was just the two of them.
How could either do wrong when one
did the feeding, the other swallowed.
Night after night, they sat in silence
in the parlor, rocking themselves to sleep.
For her, fear became pity without passing through
love. To him, anger receded into need while avoiding
any tenderness. The old man said it best. Nothing.
Lightning doesn't strike twice.
Nor does a folding chair
squeeze your hand in its framework
a second time.
The floor is only wet and trip-worthy
on your initial trek
from bathroom to kitchen.
And once your car
slams into the hydrant,
that's it forever.
Sadly, disasters know this.
The battery jolt
It merely passes information
to the rickety ladder.
Likewise, the hot plate on the stove.
One nasty burn
is a paper cut
waiting to happen.
So you're marrying again.
Sky's blazing with lightning,
© John Grey