*I promised the two individuals who inspired me to write this piece that I would “publish” it somewhere some day. After being turned down twice elsewhere, I figure it’s best I post it on my own blog.
The hallway clock says ten to five.
In two straight lines the parade begins.
“Are you ready?” They always ask.
What’s there to be ready for
but another meal that makes you sigh?
In slippers, walkers, and a few wheelchairs,
You march, shuffle, and slowly roll
as they unlock another door.
Silently they hand you a bib,
as if you’re still a kid.
Across the table sits an empty chair
or someone who doesn’t seem to care.
What’s worse than eating alone
is to be closely watched by those
who are mute unless you refuse to eat.
Eating is a choice they sometimes admit
but if you leave your tray untouched
the doctor is going to order more pills.
“She’s paranoid that the food is poisoned!”
“No, she’s simply too depressed to eat!”
“Would you have eaten this if you were me?”
One looks sheepish when she says “Of course!”
One frowns as if you’d spoken against the Lord.
“Rude and difficult!” They scribble in your chart
all because of your “smart” remark.
“Alright,” they inspect your tray once more.
“You need to eat more,” they often say.
“Hurry up!” They wave their arms.
Because their schedule is really tight,
eating leisurely is no longer your right.
Eating used to be a joy of life.
Even chowing down leftovers in your car
was much better than supper here.
Thinking of parties you used to host,
the laughter is what you miss the most.
They usher you back to the other ward,
where you sit and wait and wait some more
for evening snacks and a few more pills,
before they instruct you to go to sleep,
as if they’re talking to their kid.
You close your eyes for bedtime prayers.
Nothing comes out but a few drops of tears.
When you’re young, you worked very hard,
so that you wouldn’t be homeless or starve.
Who would have thought you’d end up here?
You’ve stopped believing you’ll ever leave
this place where many are happily confused.
Perhaps the only thing to look forward to
is the day when you become one of them,
losing your mind and your sadness too.