D. Walsh Gilbert is the author of Ransom (Grayson Books), Once the Earth had Two Moons (Cerasus Poetry), and forthcoming, imagine the small bones (Grayson Books). A double Pushcart Prize nominee, she’s currently preparing a chapbook about her aunt, Mary, recently moved into an assisted-living home. Gilbert’s work has appeared in Gleam, The Lumiere Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, and forthcoming, Cordella Press, among others. She serves on the board of the non-profit, Riverwood Poetry Series, and as co-editor of Connecticut River Review.
a Wounded Deer—leaps highest—
Mary fears my red brick castle
has a mousetrap in every window
and all she wants to do
is set her elbows on the windowsill,
and look outside. Can you see
the river from here?
She fears there are trap doors
hidden under scatter rugs, the kind
on the floor of a gallows or under
the table of a magic show. She’s heard
of coffins with hinged bottoms. She fears
quiescent ghosts stuck inside closets,
and suspects the mirrors came
from Coney Island funhouses—
meant to bend time
as well as bodies. Hard time.
Riker’s Island dungeon time. More reason
to look painstakingly at this landscape.
The frame. Trace brook & road & walkway.
Find the vanishing point.
Two antique mirrors hung
in Mary’s last apartment,
one French Provincial
and one Art Deco
with a bold beveled frame—
both meant to enlarge
another doorway due to size,
almost a still lake.
They must have caught
the EMTs who bundled her
like moving furniture
when they took her
to the hospital, yesterday’s
trousers slung over a chair
with the knees of them
pocketed from bending
and incapable of walking away.
She hasn’t asked
to rehang either glass.
Fearful of reflection, of looking,
even though the mirrors
weren’t meant to magnify?
Perhaps she doesn’t want
to see herself.
Perhaps they’re large enough
to gather what’s behind her.
“I have been here before.”
—from Sudden Light by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
I have been here before. Mary remembers ether.
She can look back. Can see white iron bars on her bed,
the polio ward, the hardened starch in the habit
of the sisters wrapping her shivering leg after surgery.
It was nothing like the visiting nurse who arrives
today in gray trousers, respectful knock on the door.
I have been here before. Mary recalls
when there were no walls between the beds,
when she reached down to verify the presence
of her leg which couldn’t hold her up, which
left her stranded behind the other children.
As she sketched comic strips & fat cartoons,
they played tag & stickball, warm and sweaty—
overturned the flowerpots. Called it an accident.
Nobody looked back. Nobody asked whether
the bony terracotta cracked. I have been here before.
Any gardener can put the root ball back in plastic,
and the marigold might grow again, but it has
memorized its falling. It will always flinch
when unfamiliar hands begin to touch its stem.