A young man crept down the urine-pained hallway,

                                         visiting a stroke-wrecked grandmother in an old folk’s home.

                             Went into the room of the once vital woman

                             who could no longer speak, only move her eyes,

blink yes or no when questioned.


Outside Grandmother’s room, from the main room,

                                 a sound, a sound he did not want to hear,

                                 repeated over and over, indecipherable

from a white-haired woman—thin as paper,

                                  rolling her wheelchair around as if she were dancing with an invisible partner,

                                  the sound, the sound, like the rasp of a sick crow,

                                  two words, repeated, repeated,

ears straining to understand the frantic crone’s plea. 


As if turned into a harpy, she would start 

                                   and not stop, never stop, like a bed pan sloshed across nerves,

                                   like tripping over a stringy mop,

the caw would never cease, 

                                   making him want to scream as he ran out into the hallway,

                                   driven mad as if Poe’s raven lit on the doorjamb once more.


‘Nurse, Nurse, what is she saying?’


“Forgive me; she is saying: Forgive me. That’s all she ever says.”


‘For what! Forgive me for what!’


“We don’t know. She says that every day.  Forgive me. Forgive me. Drives us crazy.

                   The more she says those two words, the more she swirls her chair around,

                           sometimes in a frenzy. She was once a famous ballerina.

That’s all we know.”


Years later, he forgot the ballerina, after his grandmother died.

                                      In his own nursing home, pulling a comforter over his gray head, 

                                      from the ever cold, he remembered,






At Walgreen’s soda fountain

when Mom worked there,

so much fun!

In a booth, 

we ripped open the paper,

slid it down the straw,

just past half-way,

how far was key.

Accordioned the paper, 

blew hard,

sent the missile into

our laughing faces,

my brother and me.

Mom taught us

like a little kid.

What other Mom somersaulted?

Barefoot belle.  

Mom blew hard

giggled, laughed,

her Lana Turner eyes flashing.

Direct hit to the nose!

Before the divorce

sometimes Dad showed up. 

No! No blowing! No!





“It’s just a tree, Grammy.”


Our five-year-old grandson 

comforts my wife

as we watch 

orange-helmeted, goggled workmen

cut down her cherished maple,

wracked by the heartless storm. 


Tears fall, branches wave

as if calling for help.

Tree falls, crushes memories,

parents knelt before the sapling

planted when their son was born,

hope the tree they planted

for their daughter

will live longer. 





It's gotten bad enough 

this blue vs red embroilment.


Missada, Jerseyork, 

Rhodemont, Virgwest


heats up more every day,

nick the red and blue veins, 


Florkota, Tennorgia,

Massaz, Oreiana


like the First People blood brothers

instead of killing,


Loutana, Nebconsin,

Texaine, Callilina


mix the states up,

re-locate the angst.


Delatah, Missigan,

Idaowa, Whyken


Relate to new neighbors?

Do things differently?


Alasio, Alaton,

Oklasota, Penntana


Put down your guns,

replace stars with olive branches.


Hawaico, Arkanrado,

Connonois, Marysas


Do it now.



© Vern Fein


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