Poet of the Week: Remica Bingham-Risher

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Gratitude

Each time I enter Autumn Care Nursing Home
residents line the glistening beige tile.

I walk past the nurses’ station—three, on duty, sitting
behind the glass. None moving to see why Mr. Trueblood is screaming

Help me, please, help me. He has dropped an orange.
His mouth twists small and silent when I put it in his hands.

My grandmother is usually sleeping, eyes dimmed to a slit,
T.V. blaring, arms dangling, hands limp.

I touch her shoulder and she wakes giving orders—Get my shoes;
brush my teeth; take out my bible, leave it in my reach.

I move around her half of the square room
until she can think of just one other task,

the only order she doesn’t give aloud—
her head nodding backwards, her eyes on my hands.

I slide behind her wheelchair and draw the curtain separating her
from Ms. Williams who suffers with dementia and yells

Oh, I know what you’re doing as we disappear.
I remove my grandmother’s blouse, unfasten her bra and slide

my nails from the nape of her neck down to her buttocks
until white lines, like lightning, cover her skin.

She is silent. This tells me I am finally doing something useful.
I warm lotion with my palms and lather it onto her back until she says

what I came to hear—That feels some kinda good—her gratitude:
measured and easy. My acceptance: each day’s return.

 

 

From Conversion (Lotus Press, 2007)

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