Mennonite Poetry Home | Leonard Neufeldt



Addendum Filed with the Medical History

The chair was too far from the telephone
and your hearing aids off; that’s why your hip
shattered without a sound, you said, startled
by all those wheelchairs in the foyer
gathered in gossipy, desolate queues
but not by the death of your few remaining
friends or the sudden coming on of blindness,
the nakedness of your white stick.
You agreed with your sister's too often
there's hell to pay between points
A and B,
the sister who had helped you
give up on hell, a space too large for
anyone’s need or bequest and laid out entirely
in a single pattern like the village
when night swallows street corners

The right hemisphere’s first bleed
rearranged its loyalties on what to keep
and what to let go: why regret the certainties
your husband salvaged from ancestral
wreckage and left for you as a tidy
inheritance. Why cherish grievances
instead of a reading machine, or your new
immigrant friend who painted the colours
of her veneration and with simplest words
helped you see how they worked together?
Her voice is a kind of seeing: your chin over
your dinner tray as you wiped your mouth
with the back of your good hand,
a tribute to fine flavour and God’s refusal
to confiscate small pleasures or curiosities
insubordinate as your epidemiologic theory
of the chapel’s singing groups

But another hemorrhage can eat its way
like miles of fire before the chill
sets in and leaches the need to hold years
and place together, memory slow
and gentle, a thin clear stream seeping
through a bog, small recognitions bubbling
like the dark water of winter under sunlit ice,
and you stared at the wheelchaired painter,
who couldn’t remember the brush strokes
of rehab, who saw you as mere detail
unthreatening as a stranger far off
or the gravelly spatter of the sprinkler
loud against the hospice window,
your eyes empty except for the small smiles
drawn in, given back

©Leonard Neufeldt. Borderlands and Crossroads (Demeter Press, 2016).




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