Monarchs

Like gray haired first graders,
They sit all in a line in their small chair desks,
silent and alone, under the stale blue fluorescence
of the nursing home.

Polaroid portraits border the bulletin board,
that they themselves do not recognize,
Some labeled “Happy Birthday” underneath, some “Goodbye” and some “Covid-19”.

Each was a monarch of something:
A family, a business, a platoon -
Now their ermine robes give way
to terrycloth,

Trusted signifiers are silent:
Watches reveal no present, no past, no future.
Words no longer form in their throats,
Familiar faces fade to unfamiliar.

Is there no solace here?
Does the salve of forgetting
dull the pain of remembering, or
does the mind just wander off
to places the body yearns to go?

Where do the memories go?
Do they leak out, gradually,
all over the floor,
to be cleaned up by the nice Jamaican woman, Maizie,
who calls them all "honey"?

Or do they just evaporate
into a passing summer cloud,
to rain down over rooftops,
filling the gutters with summer bike rides,
vacations, birthdays and anniversaries,

before draining through the long downspouts,
softening the ground that awaits their return?

Mark won first place and a prize of $500. He is featured in our first official book publication, In the Quarantined Room: Reflections on the COVID-19 Experience in Indian River County, FL 2020. To find out more about the book and to purchase a copy, click here.

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