The Apartment on 83rd Street

a narrative poem

The small rooms were dim and the hallways narrow
barely space beside the bed for the dresser
that was piled high with papers, envelopes, receipts, trinkets of all natures and materials
but the walls were filled with frames and pictures.
Some painted, others manufactured
all lovingly arranged to stand on display.
There were pleasant, bright, sunny scenes of carriages and wagons
ladies in tight corsets and elegant long dresses
carrying their parasols high above their coiffed heads to block the sun
and they smiled inward at the other inhabitants of their oiled environment
unaware that I stood watching.
There were the photographs of my aunts and uncles
all old now, portraying them at the height and vibrancy of their youth.
Theresa sits below one of the old family pictures
she is a haggard wretch, a drunken sob story of a woman with nothing left but vague memories
of what life in the real world should be
and not the reflection in the bottom of the glass.
When she smiles her faces bunches and her rolling eyes disappear but the younger
sober version of her still looks out on me with coherency.
My father hasn’t changed much, save for the grayness of his beard and hair and
more wrinkles, of course
and I look over at him sitting on the couch a faraway glassiness in his tired eyes
unwilling to confront what he knows is inevitable because who
imagines the day when roles are reversed and your mother
cries out to you that she hurts, that she’s tired, and wants to go home.
I hug my grandmother for the last time and feel nothing but bone.
She looks at me with blue eyes that recognize me
she knows who I am and I look back in the dull, horrible realization
that it will be the last time we look at each other in the flesh.
It will be the last time I am in the apartment with the small rooms and the narrow spaces
that hasn’t changed since I was a little girl.
A period of my life ends when her life does
and I look down the roadway of my life to a time when I will be my father
sitting on the couch
awaiting the message on the darkened stoop.
So even though the news is no longer news and simply a truth I live with
it still hits me hard when I think about how right I was.