invisible age

I. invisible age

the old woman sits in her chair

center of attention

center of the room

but nobody really sees her.

 

not the filipino maid hired to take care

to wash her, to feed her, brush thinning gray hair

repeat loudly into ears the

same broken

phrases in a language

she hardly speaks,

though she hears,

in an accent she still struggles to decipher.

 

not the chinese doctor from next door

who comes twice a month for a check-up,

two fingers on a feeble pulse, hm, yes, mhmm, I see..

always prescribing the same little brown

packet of herbs for her to drink.

he has been around for an eternity, it seems

perhaps even longer than she,

skin crinkling faintly as he moves about,

like the plastic wrapping of

the packets.

 

II. stranger

there’s a stranger in the house today

and she wonders why he’s here

in her home without prior notice

a call or a note or a tap on the shoulder

would have sufficed, would have been

nice, perhaps. but here he is, uninvited

and unconcerned about his sudden obtrusive appearance

 

the old woman works up just enough

courage–just a gust of air from her

lungs already stretched

silk thin with eighty or so many

years of ventilating this

now shrinking frame–enough

 

to ask, hm, dear, what is your name?

you look familiar

but might I, pray, inquire

as to who you are and what’s your affair

and how (do forgive me)

you come to be here,

sitting beside me

and Mugi (that’s

the filipino maid)?

 

the stranger’s eyes are stranger now,

for an instant filled with glassy film

which blinking, ceases to exist

except in her memory, however fleet–

it strikes a note, it stirs the moat

of muddled feelings and faces

that sometimes begin to emerge

in the space around her head

but, as grasping for a dream

diluted and distracted by too many

morning birds

she lets it go. again

 

I’m sorry, oh dear, oh silly me!

where are my manners,

it’s age, you see–

I mustn’t forget to

offer tea, to a guest, a guest–

so seldom am I blest with a visitor

that I’ve quite forgotten how to behave.

 

he smiles, and watches her busy her hands

over china and leaves

not a trace of the tears

on his face though they’re there

in his hands as she passes the cup

full of jasmine and green

 

and he takes it, keen to

remember the flavor of

times when she knew

that his favorite tree

to climb was the one with a branch

near the kitchen window,

through which he could see as she

brewed, minced and strained

now her back turning

slowly to smilingly appraise him

this product of her labor

the least she can do these days,

making tea to serve a long-awaited guest.

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