Diane K. Martin
Windham House Assisted Living
The strawberry shortcake arrives: a median strip
of angel food between two red freeways,
landscaped with a Cool Whip curl.
But fresh peaches and cream — he misses that, you hear
him say to three gray ladies who flank his table,
to the salt and pepper, to the pastel prints on the walls.
Could he taste the words, a summer morning,
rich and sweet, sun smearing the east, dripping
its syrup onto the dark shade of leaf
as he reached up to pick the peach, warm as her
pillowed cheek, and rinsed it under the porch tap
where the milkbox held its cool, glassed treasure?
How the peaches seem to stand for everything,
and how maybe if he could taste one again, it
would be okay to die and be done.
But no, he misses peaches. The rest is in your mind,
you who will conclude your visit and walk off,
your life still sticky, and you in the juice and thick of it.
First published in Tar River Review
La Vie Intérieure
The Champs Elysées along the dining room wall
narrows to a point in the distance where
green figures stroll under parasols on a field of cream
as if perspective could persuade you
of something beyond this wall
other than the boiler room churning heat.
You are the boy, slicked back, seal-black hair,
in front of the new ’52 Ford—
framed forever on the Wurlitzer—
about whom they whisper they tried everything.
At night you lie tangled in sheets;
a car coughs, complains, turns over.
It will corrode with weather and rock salt
in Wanamaker’s parking lot
until the tow truck comes in spring.
The air conditioner burrs on through winter.
It is Christmas. The Yule log on TV
burns and is not consumed.
First published in Hayden’s Ferry Review
We hardly noticed at first, despite the indelible
thumbprints on skull tissue, the intricate scars
and excoriations on that muscle called the heart.
It was exceptionally quiet: a lack of lamentation,
an absence of rending. There was the guilt, of course,
its themes and variations, its lulls and crescendos.
But no graceful manumission or even an ending.
Just all that nothing. And then the dream, this:
the benign, nondescript beings we passed
the heavy jars to on the stairs; a fluid motion, matter-
of-fact and momentous. With each transfer, the pull
lessened, the toll on our claim was not as large.
Analyst and theologian argue what it meant.
First published in New England Review