I’ve seen them sitting in corridors
on locked units of psych hospitals
where it takes a nurse and two buzzers
to get you in and then back out again.
I’ve walked by them parked in chairs
in hallways—old women sitting alone,
uncombed, unkempt, needing a shave,
talking to someone the rest of us can’t see.
This one I know from sitting next to her in court
last week. I know from reading records
how the people that she knew started getting fuzzy
and fading away along with her mind.
Contacts lost over the years—
one son in prison, the other died a drunk,
a daughter somewhere
maybe in a facility.
She was young once, this woman—
had lovers and babies and friends.
All gone. Except the memories
of the people with whom she still
has unfinished business, to whom she is
explaining slowly, methodically, like an old
argument many times rehearsed, again
what is so important that she tell them.
—from Rattle #23, Summer 2005
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