Poets Walk: "please to begin"

Poets Walk: "please to begin"

Location on Poets Walk Map: 51


Romance in the Old Folks' Home by Michael Waters


First he offered to read to her,

but she was afraid

he spoke as Bible-thumper, so declined.

Then he steeped several

herbal teas for her table—

she sipped without looking up.

He scissored photos from weeklies

and taped them to her door,

little windows into the past:

couples skating on Highland Pond,

dancing four days in a marathon,

sleeping on roofs above Flatbush Avenue.

She knew she was being spoken to

in a language long forgotten,

like Latin lost after school.

When she found the horned shell

near her lounge on the lawn,

she pressed it to her ear

to hear the ceaseless hush,

knowing longing had replaced

the sluggish creature housed there.

The next evening she appeared

with freshly washed hair

pinned with an ivory comb,

and brought that shy spirit

her favorite book—

The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne

who liked to brood on sin—

while the faint widows flushed

and whispered her name—oh Anna!—

and she asked him please to begin.


“Romance in the Old Folks’ Home” is from Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2001 by Michael Waters. Used by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.