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Hospital Cafeteria


ISSUE:  Winter 1995

Opposite me, young nurses chat,
holding wheat toast in delicate hands.
One just shaved an old man
and claims she made him laugh.
Even as you read this he is gone
and maybe the nurses and I, as well, because you,
dear one, are the slowest correspondent.
Once I found a letter I’d set aside to type
eight years earlier (on your scale
a fingernail of time, a twitch):
scrawled details of my pregnant wife and sick friend.
I’ve long since built his casket,
which was a joke between us: “How’s it coming?
Better hurry.” “It’s gorgeous. Don’t rush me.”
Every night my son bounces a ball on the steps
until the windows rattle. Think of the Series
stopped by an earthquake.
What an odd place to put a ballpark, this earth,
her plates’ slow fluidity dwarfing us
as we scramble in from second on a single.
The barber and her pals head for their floor,
as she speaks of tiling her kitchen.
I picture her kneeling in T-shirt and painter’s pants,
quickly laying the geometric tiles.
The gift shop volunteer who sold me a begonia
steers her walker toward their table.

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