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About an Unknown Poet, Her Death Pending
Examining my feelings might be possible if I let myself feel. Visiting her at the hospital reminded me of visiting Mother at the nursing home before that death 3 years back; the immigrant healthcare workers who can’t understand the simple English expressions of the ancient patients, let alone their angers; the acrid smells of cleaning fluids; the heirlooms of antique watches and rings soon-to-be stolen; the dim sunlight filtering into that room with three beds, the middle one empty. I’ve brought six issues of The Sentinel. Born in the depression-era, this poet, minus a few teeth and eyeglasses, stopped writing decades ago, her work long lost. She is making me executor of her literary estate. Her arms are bruised with the tracings of needles. What will I do with her? With the promises she leaves me—a legacy of probate attorneys and a mixed bag of memories? Her physician appears and is gentlemanly enough to witness the hasty scrawlings of a will, then hurries away. We continue our visit. She says, at the end of a comment on my character, “This’ll toughen you up.” And I understand. She means Chicago tough. I’ve smuggled in the ghetto special Kentucky fried: three biscuits, a wing and three drumsticks—Original Recipe. We break bread. We drink water. I hide what remains of the contraband in her purse for a snack later. Before I go, I promise to call tomorrow night. Then I go and get lost on the freeways.