Leah Armstead

In The Hospice

Here I know you for real
Here I break bread for you
Here I am hungry for your cornucopia of fruits
Here I know you are weary
Here I know you are gray against the sun

Where is the gold star that is sacred to you?
Where is the stone that heals your ills?
Where is the Cross for your burial?
Where is the pearl of your ancestors?
Where is the potion you swallow for strength?

You are silver-haired and thin, and big-hearted
You are sad and weakened from so much life
You are smiling with false teeth like ivory
You are old but your bones ache with birth
You are breathing words of a mysterious song

Sectioned: Hospital Poems

1.
He was pronounced dirty on arrival.
Being locked up wasn't on his list
of things to do before he died, but
he didn't have a choice. Here he was.
He was stripped, given a cool shower
and clean clothes, and a purple juice
to drink with salty stale peanuts
and crackers. Everyone was crackers.
Everyone was nuts. Nuts—everywhere!
Shame unzipped its pants. Exposed.
But exposed as what? He couldn't nail it
on the head. It was a game, and everyone
was playing as if their life depended on it.

2.
And what else is on my mind:
the elf-child digging a hole in my brain.
Snake-infested pillars that hold up the world.
A grinning idiot that looks exactly like me.
Peek a Boo. Yes, it's you. Upside-down.

Leah Armstead © 2008