A Story

On a gray morning
in an old woman's apartment
where he has come to wash
and pack the hole
her large right amputated toe
has left behind, the nurse sits
on a cushion's broken springs
listening as she mourns her life.

That's when he feels his skin
start to crack and peel away
from hard bone,
a summoning of grief
from the gorged chambers
where a residue has collected
of those who vanished,
forcing him as a boy
to learn that death follows love
in many forms.

And for a moment
he's wandering hills of high grass
and manzanita,
gouging his initials into root stumps
with a rusted cub scout blade,
listening to wasps swarm
from their hive
buried in the ground
under a plywood sheet.
He sees the valley road
twisting back from sight,
the flash of sunlight off truck hoods,
wondering how he will find his place
in the world.

The wound bed is bright red
with a white border of flesh.
He presses gauze in gently,
feeling her leg flinch in his hands,
as a story is being told on a day
already half-forgotten.
Beneath a window that draws in
a city's dull glare, their bodies
sink back into the room.


Poems by Richard Callin:

A New Life
Nine One One
Touring County Mayo, Eire
The Buick
How I'll Tell Him
A Story
Water Wheel

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets