One hand crumples like a broken wing
And the mouth’s left corner folds words to a slur,
Imprisoning an old man
Within a half-crippled body.
Left inarticulate, only memory keeps him company.
While his wife putters about, he sits and waits,
Recalling his children, and the grand-children
Who visit occasionally to pin another photo
Amid the collage which papers the wall.
Once they leave again,
He reflects on fifty-eight years of service
Rendered and not paid, for sheer love.
It is strange to dwell with these recollections
Since the stroke cut him off from common life;
He hobbles from table to chair to bed
Hearing a changeless voice.
For charity’s sake, those he helped for six decades
Send strangers to sit with him at times.
He speaks to them slowly and politely,
Offering thanks, over and over, relieved
not to be alone
With the past which can no longer be.
It was Memorial Day when the children came
To sing. Fleeter than angels they descended
Upon the house, opened their mouths for a moment
To emit the praises of God.
Then they were gone again, though the echo
Resounded in the man’s quiet brain,
Stirring round and round the solitude of age
And illness, when a soul is trapped with itself.
Sobs rise, suddenly, and he is humbled
To be seen in weakness.
No shame, though: a man’s prerogative
Is to grow into emotion with age, to feel
The richness of his humanity recalled.
Tears flow to baptize his memories,
Washed and arrayed about him
Like clean white robes of grace.
I've joined a local youth group, and we visited an old community benefactor for Memorial Day. It was bittersweet to see his joy and sorrow at the tiny service we did for him.