April 23, 2012

Jeanne Cook, RN

EQUATIONS OF THE HEART

She says something about harpy cuckoos
in eucalyptus trees. Maybe she had been a harpist,
or a poet, or came from a fragrant grove in California.
I heard she had been a chemist,
but now her brain is scrambled
like a pile of labyrinthine wire encrusted with plaque.

Is she trying to make connections?
Am I the harpy cuckoo, cajoling her to eat?
Or is she merely re-naming the mashed potatoes
I am lifting to her mouth, the fork now become
a tree? What is naming, anyway,
but the way to say a thing?

She will have none of the eating.
She points to a vase of flowers, sees a face,
sing-songs, Oh, see, he’s come!
But when I turn to look there’s no one there.
And now the namings fly, new equations—
hermit thrushes and hydrogen, fire and figs,

oxygen, copper and telephones. At last,
to quiet her, I point to a photograph
of a handsome man in a naval uniform.
Is that your husband? I ask. She cocks her head
and smiles. It’s there, she says,
to show we were belonged.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007
Tribute to Nurses

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