Once the doctors broke their huddle,
her uncle leaned in, “What would you like?”
The little girl beamed, “A white piano!”
It took him three weeks but he had
one waiting in her room. She played
it every day like the medicine it was.
And the guitar player stopping for water
on his way through Virginia, hearing the
gas station owner on the phone, “I got no
choice. I gotta put ’em down.” The young
man keeps telling everyone, “I don’t know
why, but I had to take them.” Now the
old dog and three pups live in his car.
And the old nurse who dreams of her
grandma sitting in the backseat on long
trips warming her hands. And this one,
in awe of her sister who after ten years of
meditating gave it up to care for orphans.
Not ’cause she was done with it, but ’cause
what she found there was now everywhere.
And the speech therapist who when sad
opens the memory of her grandfather like
a thin napkin holding a pressed flower. A
country doctor, he took chickens instead of
money. She was thirteen when he died. A
week after the funeral, her father and uncle
were going through his things. In a burst of
anger, her uncle dumped his books in the
field by the burning barrel and dragged the
bookcase home. It began to rain and the
books, like broken doves, softened and
enlarged. She took the older ones and
keeps them close. She opens them
when it rains and he talks to her.
And how about the son of a heroin addict
who serves soup in a shelter? Since the givers
seldom know what they give, it’s the pour of
the ladle that ties us together. Now you tell
me of your old aunt who lives on an island
off the coast. Going blind, she’s tying ropes
from house to tree to water bucket;
feeling her way through all that
is familiar and strangely liking it.