poetry by Lesléa Newman

Never Again

Goodbye bored, jelly donut-eating receptionist
in white lace blouse with frilly school girl collar
who always spit out “Fifth floor” upon my arrival,
one finger pointing skyward as if I’d forgotten,
my mind gone to seed like a resident instead of a visitor;
Goodbye dear residents parked in shiny wheelchairs all along
the long hallway, each one looking up hopefully as I pass,
bald and balding heads bobbing on scrawny necks,
strange squawks of greeting escaping wrinkled throats,
claw-like hands pawing the air in jagged desperate wave;
Goodbye creaky elevator smelling of urine and boiled cabbage;
Goodbye blue fifth floor hallway with your navy blue carpet
and light blue walls and cheery blue paintings
of ship and sea and sky that never cheered anyone;
Goodbye tiny single room, tiny single bed, tiny single dresser;
Goodbye brand new color TV never watched,
sliding glass window overlooking fenced in courtyard never opened,
dangling emergency cord hanging beside bed never pulled,
heavy black telephone perched upon night stand never called upon;
Goodbye red pills, yellow pills, green pills, pink pills;
Goodbye sparkly tortoise shell cat’s eye glasses that sat on her nose,
making her eyes huge and watery, and scaring me when I was a girl;
Goodbye closet full of polyester blouses stained with ketchup,
stretched out stretch pants, white clunky shoes worn at the heel,
lumpy brown “Bubbe” sweater to shrug over everything God forbid
she shouldn’t catch cold, walking pneumonia or worse;
Goodbye drawers full of knee-hi nylons, white cotton underwear, bras
with too many hooks for gnarled ninety-nine-year-old fingers to fasten;
Goodbye red painted nails, swollen knuckles, brown age spots,
skin soft as rose petals, diamond wedding band
worn on pinky, ring finger too fat from arthritis;
Goodbye quivering voice that cracked with delight at the mere sight
of me, “Hello darling” uttered with such astonished joy
at her good fortune: the miracle of remaining in this world
one more hour one more minute one more second
to gaze upon my face, gather me in her arms
crush me to her pillowy bosom and never let go;
Goodbye red lipstick mark planted on my cheek
with loud wet smack so annoying yesterday, so longed for today:
Goodbye, Grandma

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