Delivering Christmas Dinner to My Daughter, Second Shift Charge Nurse on the Alzheimer Floor

By  John Bargowski

There’s no easy way in, or out,
warned the LPN who buzzed us past
the locked double doors,
led me and my wife down the corridor
to the nurses’ station
where a handsome man, tall,
and maybe sixty, wrung
his hands while he stood over
our daughter’s desk
repeating her name—
the way we had at her birth
when we were listening in it
for the ring of a bell—
begging her to walk him back
to school because he feared
the bullies who’d tripped him
and washed his face with snow
when he’d delivered papers
on his Ferry Street route,
and before our daughter uncovered
the steaming dish we’d brought,
she took his hand,
walked him around the floor
past wandering patients
and whirring machines
then back to his room
to help him search for his galoshes
and gather his school books
while his wife stood outside his door
reading the little wishes
in the greeting cards
taped to his tinseled
and holiday-lighted door frame,
the hem of her velvet pants
dripping and salt-stained
from the parking lot slop,
her Gloria hair-clip
with streaking star
and tarnished angel’s trumpet
blowing silvery notes
sideways through the frizz
coming loose from her perm.

John Bargowski received a 2009 NEA Fellowship. His book Driving West on the Pulaski Skyway, selected by Paul Mariani for the Bordighera Prize, was recently published. His work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry East, Alaska Quarterly Review, New Letters, and The Sun, among others.

Originally appeared in NOR 14.

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