April Visit to the Nursing Home
By C.L. Grellas
She’ll be comin’ round the mountain
When she comes, when she comes
A room with a parking lot view
becomes windowless; the stench of urine a reminder
of how sadness breathes, drifts the corridor, visits door to door.
My mother-in-law was propped and dressed
in drab olive cord for company. Her children’s photos hung
in grand array like in a room adorned with Greek Orthodox crucifixes,
though one had fallen behind the headboard, ignored.
The rest, her gallery of forgotten names.
I told her everything we used to do:
Uncle Vinny’s stupid dinner toasts, sipping
Manichevitz during rounds of passing rolls, the blessing
of the bread she’d kneaded for holidays.
She mentioned going home between nurses’ rounds.
There was something on her back—a human alarm
that went off each time I hugged her close,
as if I might unlock some story hidden
in her heart. We spoke of memories
in flicker-frames, I recited snippets from the past:
the color of her husband’s eyes, dates her sisters died.
She looked surprised by that, which I felt guilty
later for. I mean, I should’ve let her think
everyone was still alive. She must’ve asked
a dozen times if she was coming home with me—
I said yes to each one, until I had to leave, say goodbye.
Somehow, I thought it would be easier to lie.