Fiddlers at the Desert Valley County Care Center

Among physicians rich in their death watch
In hallways crowded with locked wheelchairs,
Cradles of a century’s platitudes,
The stale air smelling of disinfectant
And weeping wounds enough to stupefy nurses,
Among the staring insomniacs of the day room,
The stroke victims on their rented gurneys,
Complaining orderlies and rattling carts
 
Among these in this place my father lay
At the end of everything
 
In the curved landscapes of white sheets
Abandoned finally by parents, his son,
 
The loyal company, old friends, his death
A sign of other deaths too soon to come
 
Unable to recall one life, his thoughts,
Features, he lay unknown to himself,
 
The tall hunter of pheasants out with his boy
In vellum corn and brassy orchards
 
In an autumn that never was, the proud
White-collared Ford employee lay on a bed
 
Too short for legs tattooed with red burn-rings
From daily syringes of Cytosar
 
Considered useless, still a requirement
For state funding for a body described
 
Leukemic waiting for Saturday's fiddlers
Who came to raise the spirits of the dead
 
With a music he never cared for turned
Suddenly attractive, he found genius,
 
Theirs or his like some lyrical phosphor
That shapes itself in the dry night air
 
To make a thing then make it disappear
He lay listening to the county fiddlers
 
At the end of every purpose, act and form
I leave you here, my father, in perfect accord.
 

Michael Gessner, "Fiddlers at the Desert Valley County Care Center" from Selected Poems.  Copyright © 2016 by Michael Gessner.  Reprinted by permission of the author.
Source: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2016)
More Poems by Michael Gessner