There are young people with disabilities who are institutionalized because community living supports are still inadequate. This is a poem dedicated to them.
It is in the waiting that his heart dies
not the paralysis ,
not the itch he can’t reach,
not the hunger he can’t feed,
not the dirt he can’t remove.
It is the arrogance of the staff,
who keep him waiting
while they play cards
their laughter sounding down the hall
then stand before him, demanding gratitude
that kills his spirit.
At times the ward is silent as he waits
to be fed,
to be washed,
to be turned,
to be scratched.
He plays with numbers in his head
Recalling the day he won the math award
When his teacher gave him a pin with the symbol Pi
he wore it all day
until his father said only girls wore pins
so he buried Pi under his socks.
When he was put into the nursing home,
he asked his mother to bring Pi to him
and pin it on the corkboard at the bottom of his bed
so he could always see Pi, the irrational number
the transcendental number
never ending, never repeating
Knowing that no matter how long the wait was
it could have been longer.
Knowing the wait will never be the same.
Perspective, he learned, was the answer to all of life’s problems.
Copyright 2015 Ruth Harrigan
all rights reserved
That Woman in the Wheelchair