Numbers

In the hospital Critical Care Unit my drugged grandmother

lay repeating these facts:

her name, maiden & married,

her husband’s, deceased,

& the various addresses where they both

once lived. Not only that,

but bank,, social security & telephone digits.

Not only that, but safe codes

& dates of anniversaries, of births.

 

Oh operator, plug in:

memory’s intravenous is running around circuits,

this shorting out overload.

 

Sorting through calendars, road routes,

the debits & credits of doors, an assemblage

changing with income, habits, years —–

Is there some great rank & file

to which we belong?

Where is the document, the hall of records,

a sort of mantra, that corner & street?

Just a lost dot on the map?

2.5 mg/hour. 190 over 40.

Beep. Wheeze. Hiss.

 

When she was conscious Grandma began seeing

a glowing green ball in front of my mouth

& I said, “Then let’s play tennis. Don’t

be afraid.”  Back ‘n forth, lips open

& shut, became an imaginary court.

“Look Gram, you’re winning.”

But she shook her head & said,

suddenly lucid, “In tennis no score means love,

so let’s just leave it at that.”

 

 

By Stephen Mead