Saying I Love You
A woman at the entryway studiously
Scrawls my name in curled black letters on
The milky pages of a dull green ledger,
To mark my visit to the banks of
The River Styx.
Metal wheelchairs rattle by,
Perfumed by unnamed sprays and tablets and gases
That change a summer’s day into a chilled noxious
Blend of hell’s sulfur and acridity.
The people in the chairs, mothers and fathers,
Grandmothers and grandfathers stare blankly
As they ride. Solo passengers on a train of history, with
Cars unhitched and cargo long forgotten.
Hallways, bright and narrow as soft yellow funnels
Guide me where I never want to go. I step aside
For medicines and juices that roll past
On shiny sliver carts, with squeaky
Wheels, alive with the rhythms of hollow days
And sleepless nights.
A nurse nods, her professional aplomb
And perfunctory smile lack encouragement
For conversation. My heart rides heavy in my
Nurses and attendants crowd a counter.
A coterie, controlled by white faced
Boards, scribbled in blues and greens and
Reds, of times and doses.
If I asked, they wouldn’t tell. Trust issues.
Privacy issues in this warehouse of secrets,
And forbidden knowledge, written in a language
I don’t understand and can’t decipher.
His room is three doors down on the left. A withered
Man in a body that once held strength, a face that
Faced the enemy and never blinked, that loved
And was adored. All gone now, the days
Of his calendar blotted out except for medicinal
Yellowed fingernails, once smartly trimmed
And shined and polished. Disheveled strands of
White and gray that haven’t felt a comb in days. A
Face so gaunt I blink in wonder.
He greets me with dark, empty eyes, black pools
That cannot smile or understand. This man
Who brought me life and saw me through the storms
No longer knows my name.
I am a stranger, one of many who walks into his room
And speaks strange words.
This man whom I have loved forever, the shadow of
The man who used to be, a man who needs my help
When I have no help to give.
“Hi, dad.” He only stares.