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.