Finding a Way
Since arriving by ambulance in the dark,
my mother-in-law has been in a different room
every day. So at the front desk I ask for Alice’s room,
which the volunteer gives,
and says, Do you need directions?
I do, but say, I’ll get lost anyway.
Now I take that for granted, along with landmarks
of gift shop, a room with a fish tank,
the view of brown wisteria vines,
the nurses who ask, Can I help you?
Are you lost? Do you know where you’re going? Honestly,
I can’t remember their words, but all are kind.
As I step through the doorway, Alice looks at me
as if I might be anyone, so I say, It’s Jeannine,
and greet the friend who sits beside her bed.
Alice tells me they never brought her ham sandwich.
Her friend shakes her head.
Well, they brought it, but it was turkey, Alice says.
Her friend shakes her head, and whispers, She ate a bit.
More loudly she says, Some people can’t tell ham
from turkey. Then we talk about orange juice.
Alice asks me, Are you Stephanie Knowle?
I say, No.
She says, But you used to be. Before you were married.
I wish I knew who Stephanie Knowle was. A young man
arrives with a neon orange strap and a steel walker.
He says, I’m going to help you try walking.
Alice says, No, but she is interested in his running shoes.
He tries to charm her. Her friend and I offer bribes.
If you walk, maybe you can get home. She still says no.
When the man leaves, Alice asks, Was that the organist?
Apparently I say no a lot, too. I want
to be home and pull a hood over my head,
slip on my fingerless gloves. It’s April, but it’s cold.
I want to break forsythia to force, make banana bread
and have that take a day. For a few hours, no more phone calls
even with people I love. At least I know my way out:
two turns before the fish tank. I tell Alice, I’m going now.
She bends her head for my kiss, then says,
You have to go home and write.