Last weekend a writing group friend, Bob Kralapp, and I did a poetry reading at Clare Bridge in Middleton. Clare Bridge is a “memory care facility” and, from what I could tell, a very nice, caring one. When you’re buzzed in, the front room has a fireplace burning, comfy couches and wing chairs. There are framed photos of residents in various activities in perched on tables and the mantle. Also very obvious was the lack of smell I’m going to just call “disinfectant” — that smell is what actually kick-starts the fear in your lizard brain. That smell transports you back to the time when you were little and went to visit Grandma in The Home, or had to go to the hospital when you broke your collar bone or sit in the waiting room while your Dad went to visit Uncle Bob at rehab. . . It was so not there, that I noticed it.

Some residents were waiting for us in the activity room when Bob and I came in. Most were ambulatory and sat in chairs with walkers parked at hand. A few were in wheelchairs. Most of the women were dressed specifically for Valentine’s Day in pink or red, with heart-shaped jewelry.

As we read, they were (mostly) quiet, but sometimes commented randomly. Not all that different from a coffee-shop poetry slam now that I think of it. One resident did call me “ornery,” though. I’ve tucked that away for some future poems.

Here’s a poem I read for them:

 

This Winter

This winter is the winter I catch him.

What? You don’t believe that old myth, do you?

 

I’ll layer up and slog through snowy drifts.

Zillions of snowflakes dizzying down around me.

Everyone else will be inside cupped around cocoa

and melty marshmallows, but they’ll miss the clues.

 

This winter I finally know when to catch him.

It won’t be during an early November or even December snow.

This winter, he’ll wait until late,

when our backs are achy and

even the snow angels have gotten up, dusted off,

and left for choir practice.

 

It won’t be on a Wednesday, snow-day,

working-from-home-day,

and especially not on a good-packing-snow-day.

 

This winter it’ll be deep drifts in January,

bottom-of-the-thermometer cold,

when the holiday light reflections are gone, and

nobody but the hungriest owl is out singing in the dark.

I’ll stand in the driveway and wait patiently.

 

Do you really think they’re unique?

Do you believe everything you’re told?

 

I’ll let you in on the secret:

First it’s a smell: the hint of mint and mothballs.

That’s probably a ’64.

Now watch carefully, and you’ll catch the dull reflection

from an old ’83 stuck to your mitten.

Listen hard, and you’ll hear the

tinny clink of a ’59 as it hits the ground.

 

This winter when he tries to slip some

second-hand, re-run snowflakes in on us,

I’m gonna catch him.

 

 

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