Mother, with the Gray Hair of Assisted Living

Rodney Torreson

Rodney Torreson

Mother with the Grey Hair of Assisted Living was accepted as part of the MSU Library Short Edition call for work on the theme of “recovery,” in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibit of Beverly Fishman's art, also called Recovery. The former poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Torreson won the Seattle Review's Bentley Prize, and Storyline Press named him runner-up for the national Roerich Prize for first books. In 2015, the Dyer-Ives Foundation honored him "for his longstanding commitment as a poet, teacher, patron, and advocate for poetry in West Michigan. His third full-length collection of poetry, THE JUKEBOX WAS THE JURY OF THEIR LOVE, was issued by Finishing Line Press in 2019. His other full-length books of poems are A BREATHABLE LIGHT (New Issues Press. 2002) and THE RIPENING OF PINSTRIPES: CALLED SHOTS ON THE NEW YORK YANKEES (Story Line Press, 1998).

though nearly blind, could yet play piano,
ply the blurry pearl of the keys. Her ears would lead,
her arching hands with lithe fingers follow.

Years earlier, she gave up going places
and having to park her purse. Once Covid closed in,
the dining room shut down. Her walker no longer

lurched through the halls. Old chords of conversation
dried up. If the stars outside her window came
screeching to a halt, though, she didn't notice.

Instead, she'd imply over the phone
that the shadows weren't willful, even after
the event coordinator said that due to the virus

she could not play the baby Grand in the lobby.
Like her, the other residents were folded up
in their rooms. No more

"I Left My Heart in San Francisco"
and other tunes that showed how deep was yesterday.
The only folks she saw, covered in shadows,

brought her meals and meds. Seldom
did patterns of light in the vague outlines
of Minnesota Twins thrum from the TV.

However, this spring the lawn of the manor
once more lopes along. She, who over two years ago,
said that she'd reached the end of her keys,

with all their sharps and flats, returned at 93,
to the bench. Again, in her hands a balm of melody,
and in a way those she's touched are washed

by her blindness, with some adding their voices
in song, their hearts bridging verses to the chorus.
They restore a living covenant with others,
through clapping and, afterward,
maybe a hand on her shoulder that resumes
a sanctuary in the territory of touch.

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