Poem – A Visit

This poem saved my writing career, more of an aspiration, a few years ago.  Many hours spent in the submission process finally paid off when Whistling Shade kindly accepted it for publication.  At that time, it represented a new writing style and format for myself.  I wanted to create a conversation between a child and an adult, that made sense in a poetical form, and fit within 3-line stanzas.  The result is a story about a child in a hospital in Alaska, speaking with her doctor.  The child’s name is Joline, and she has become a central character and figure in many pieces, poems and prose.  I am now working on a complete life story of her, one piece at a time.

This is Joline’s plight and beginning of her story, “A Visit”.

I’ve been bad, she confides to me
through titanium bars, barely enough distance between
for her soft hands seeking affection, sorely missed

It was not my fault, she continues
sullen eyes trying to speak truth by way of
the fog, heavier with each passing minute

I’m tired, she finally concedes
slumbering back to her cot, a charade
of at home comfort, lacking stuffed animals

I wait for her eyes to firmly shut,
turn off the overhead lights, time to go as
tomorrow will be here shortly

Who are you, she begins
blue eyes piercing through any thought I arrived with,
I choose my words carefully

I am a doctor, I begin,
you are here because you are sick
and I will make you well

I’m scared, frantic lips mouthing other words
a look of fright creeping across her face
something changes, the air has chilled

I want mommy and daddy, she screams
in a voice I have never heard, shivers climb my spine,
I vow to unearth the buried child

I will help you, looking for calm
Would you like a teddy bear, continuing
as I compromise with two personalities

I’m sorry, said with innocent honesty
I hope they are ok, subtle sympathy
it seems, but I am not sure, her voice

is haunting, has crept into my dreams each evening
when I try to put this behind me, it comes back
a machine you cannot unplug

Would you like chocolate milk, a concession
as I do not want lose the thin thread of trust
Yes please, with a sweet smile

What is your name, gauging the situation
Joline, in between gigantic gulps
like a man crawling through desert sands

Joline, would you like to walk outside, it’s a good day,
a rare occasion of peace as she
teeters on an edge I am searching for

Ok, she replies, a hint of happiness, or relief, in her voice
we walk through sliding doors into an autumn day
her hand held in mine

as she consumes many sights and sounds
adjusting from months
locked under institutional lights and hues

Something in the distance intrigues her, looking up at me
with a genuine smile, I let go and she heads
toward the garden, tended to daily by other patients, residing on

floors higher up than hers, whose home has become this red-brick
church converted to a hospital in the 50s, perched along the
Talkeetna river, moving swiftly and quietly

over ancient rock, carrying glacial till
from the mountains toward the Susitna, where
gulls take turns feasting on clams near the gulch

Wow, I caught it, she exclaims, spilling with excitement
a docile butterfly held tenderly between her hands
a moment in time stopped, the wings a photograph

I find an old wooden chair, painted haphazardly in green
near the river, in plain sight of Joline, I page through my notebook,
find where I left off yesterday, take a sip of coffee

A slight breeze from the southwest rattles through bare trees
already shed of their skin, exposed limbs to the coming winter
scattered leaves dance and twirl, a living kaleidoscope

that Joline witnesses, an expression of awe
as her eyes sparkle, I begin to wonder if the key I seek
is a palette, a paintbrush and a canvas for her to explore

Caw, caw, caw… echoes through the barren grounds,
perched high in the red oak trees, a raven
keeps an eye on moving objects, becoming fixated

upon Joline, silence overcoming thought, as their eyes interlock
a game of curiosity, I’m the only witness, too engrossed to reach
pen to paper and record this moment, not wanting to disturb

And then it turns, one last look before flight
extended wings a blur as the echo mutes
and disappears over the river to the north.


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