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Rodney Torreson


Leaning on His Gold Crutch


in the rush-hour snow

of numb December


near the red light I'm stopped at,

a gray-haired man

in a smart gray overcoat

looking about as if

waiting for someone

and blowing on his fist

while snow whirls about his ankles,

who suddenly lifts the crutch 

like a trombone

in his left hand,

and with his right acting as a slide,

thrusts it toward the overcast sky,

while his mouth 

makes its mock trombone sound,

and he bends to each side,

sweetly gliding the slide

back and forth,

then stopping it cold,

punches it out five

or six times,

before his lips finally pull back

from his imaginary 


and he grins wide and laughs

as if he'd knocked off a cloud.




At St. Luke's Nursing Home



Mother sweeps past the deliberate buoyancy

of front desk smiles to reach Father's room.

On a clipboard on his door,

grim swings backward chart his sure decline.


She, who makes a sanctuary of his needs,

will make him lean on her 

to move the mountain of one foot

before the other toward the car,


parked for now in the circle drive, 

the only turnaround here,

who'll later wheel him about the store.

Hanger in hand, she turns


to hear her off-key mate, 

who can hardly speak, croon in perfect pitch,

as if heaven has his voice already

at the edge of the bed, 


as nurses wisp by not wearing 

the caps of old, white sails hinting at another shore. 

Yet beyond the end of the string

he forgets to pull for the aid


to come running is Mother, his world

on a string, who today joins him singing,

"You're nobody till somebody loves you/

you're nobody till somebody cares,"


Mother doing what the TV trying

to pull him into range fails to do,

its remote control puzzled by

the blank face of his thumb, a face fumbling 


like the one between his shoulders,

which, over these last years,

has widened to an owl's, drawing in

signals from a distancing world.



It's All Come Down to This Small Room


and a lone white sail in a fog—

a lone sail not here

when I arrived—

that has somehow painted

itself into a corner,

not far from 

this table and two chairs,

one for the woman

who handed me a form

and left, knowing I must

do this alone—against

a loved one I am entirely for,

the white sail

with no boat beneath it,

now a mere flag of surrender

to sharp things

we've hidden in the house.


But since I may fail

to see it through, I lunge with pen

toward the paperwork,

which has, itself, 

sailed into the past,

when false hope served

as happiness

in this dear old crazy world

which allowed a young salesman,

not knowing

what we were going through,

to call our house 

an hour ago

as I grabbed my keys to leave—

and ask if he might

come over to show us

a glittering set of knives.




leaning on his gold crutch
at st.luke's
it's all come down
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