Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I feel like a teenage wallflower
Or worse, an intruder at a funeral
Or on some other very private, moments
As I trod from room to room to room
Plying my trade, wondering why I have
Yet again, even as a volunteer
Chosen to do something so utterly reject-able ...

I knock softly, then, poke my head
Around the door, smile tremulously
“Hey there!” and I’m in—the oldest woman on earth
Is barely a lump in the bed; she regards me with dead eyes
Says, “What? Who’re you?”
Gulp. Here we go ...
“I’m a writer, a poet actually ...”

She turns her head away, mumbles,
“Go away – I don’t want any fuckin’ verses –
an’ I don’t have any money anyhow—”
What the hell? This great-grandma
is not only blowing me off ...
She just cursed at me? That did it!
“Well then, today’s your lucky day,”
Pollyanna had nothing on me
I am suddenly perky personified,
“Cause my fuckin’ poems are free
and they don’t even rhyme”
Oh. My. God.
What was I thinking?
Probably that I am piss-poor
At this artist-on-the-ward* stuff
And don’t much give a damn
If this is the end of it

But the old woman is shaking;
I made her cry – oh shit
Should I get the nurse? What –
“Oh sheesh – I’m sorry – I had no
right,” I start as I go nearer
The bed and she turns back to me
Crying? No, the old gal is practically
Breathless, she is laughing so hard
She waves me to sit on her bed
I do, a little tentatively, I don’t
Mind telling you, but when she
Gets herself under control
She takes a hard look at me
Asks me to hand her her glasses
Then her teeth – oh yuck – then
Says, “Well – are you gonna just
Set there or what? Thought you
Said you were a poet – so do me
A poem already – ”

*The artists-on-the-ward is an actual program here at the University of Alberta Hospital that has been successfully serving patients in almost every department for over ten years. It involves practically all the arts - music, painting, sculpture and, poetry, to name a few - and I am just on the verge of completing my training for this unusual volunteer position. (It's unbelievably extensive ... The poem is a work of fiction but I have heard some pretty interesting 'war stories' so am hopefully prepared!)

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