Everyone just calls me Tom. It’s late afternoon
so the CNA pushes me into my spot
in the dayroom, facing away from the television,
and they tie dishtowels around our necks
because dinner will be here soon. Not soon enough
for that guy with the wrinkled tattoos, in his spot
across the room, who always yells for his food
until the nurses say, like they always do,
they’ll bring it when they bring it.
And not before this girl from hospice
with the big red heart on her badge asks
if she can visit with me, maybe read a book, do I like to read.
The best I can do now is mumble “pilots,”
meaning I wouldn’t mind hearing about the days
and the planes I used to fly in—navy fighter, WWII,
from my muttering and finds a battered
on the shelf somewhere and starts in, page after page
—doing all the voices, too— probably imagining
she’s all but allowed me to smell the sea air, feel
like a kid again. But this half smile is only
me waiting for it to stop, wondering
if dinner will come soon and when
will they let me sleep and could Ilift my arms to strangle her?
(Pebble Lake Review, 2006)