Sunday, August 31, 2008

Last Resort ~ 1990's

“Blind disabled woman needs roommate. Low rent in exchange for personal assistance.” 
— K. E. Hansen

You live alone for many years, fiercely holding
onto your independence, redefining
what is feasible. Chili,
for example. You refuse to stop
making chili. Your party specialty.
Slowly chopping vegetables,
carrots, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic
carefully positioning the knife, slice by slice
checking the placement of your fingers
before each cut, then gradually pressing down.
Over twenty ingredients,
chopping, stirring, tasting,
you’re at the stove hour after hour,
seeking sublime.

I have learned over the years not to lend
a hand—not to find your clothes, not to fasten
your prosthetic legs, not to check your glucose.
Having seen you snip
at others who offer,
I know you will ask for help
as a last resort.
You are striving to keep yourself
the kind of woman who always leaves home
with her guide dog fed
and her nails done.

But after a stroke,
you have to start living with the man
off the street, anyone who responds
to your ad. “Blind disabled woman needs . . .
Some stay months, others
a few weeks. One man steals
your heart, another your life savings,
$273 cash from your boa constrictor’s
aquarium. “He must have really needed it,”
you conclude, not angry, “if he had to
look in there.” Then comes the woman who loves
boats. “You mean she loves to sail?”
“No,” you explain, “I mean she loves boats.
Romantically. Works with them, chills
with them, sleeps with them. She’s a fetishist.
She’s nice, you know. I just say, whatever
floats your boat.”

Your fingers less sensitive, mind less sharp,
you have had to learn to trust,
even when you shouldn’t, to accept
what many wouldn’t. Still you fight
for self-sufficiency, often crying, yelling
in frustration, searching for missing lipstick,
wallet, insulin, cardigan, band-aid, lotion, leg
the objects in your life
rarely where you left them
in your mind.

Sometimes, sitting with you over a Diet
Dr. Pepper, watching you reach
and reach and reach
for the can, grasping
only air, I can’t stand
not to
and I slip my hand
across the table, sliding the can
a few inches forward,
far enough still
for you to find.