A Visit

by William Ricci
Iíve been bad, she confides to me
through titanium bars, barely enough distance between
for her soft hands seeking affection, sorely missed

It was not my fault, she continues
sullen eyes trying to speak truth by way of 
the fog, heavier with each passing minute

Iím tired, she finally concedes
slumbering back to her cot, a charade
of at home comfort, lacking stuffed animals

I wait for her eyes to firmly shut,
turn off overhead lights, my time to go
tomorrow will be here shortly

Who are you, she begins
blue eyes piercing through any thought I arrived with,
I choose my words carefully

I am a doctor, I begin, 
you are here because you are sick
and I will make you well

Iím scared, frantic lips mouthing other words
a look of fright creeping across her face
something changes, the air has chilled

I want mommy and daddy, she screams
in a voice I have never heard, shivers climb my spine,
I vow to unearth the buried child

I will help you, looking for calm
Would you like a teddy bear, continuing
as I compromise with two personalities

Iím sorry, said with innocent honesty
I hope they are ok, subtle sympathy
it seems, but I am not sure, her voice

is haunting, has crept into my dreams each evening
when I try to put this behind me, it comes back
a machine you cannot unplug

Would you like chocolate milk, a concession
as I do not want lose the thin thread of trust
Yes please, with a sweet smile

What is your name, gauging the situation
Joline, in between gigantic gulps
like a man crawling through desert sands

Joline, would you like to walk outside, itís a good day,
a rare occasion of peace as she 
teeters on an edge I am searching for

Ok, she replies, a hint of happiness, or relief, in her voice
we walk through sliding doors into an autumn day
her hand held in mine

as she consumes many sights and sounds
adjusting from months
locked  under institutional lights and hues

Something in the distance intrigues her, looking up at me
with a genuine smile, I let go of her hand and she heads
toward the garden, tended to daily by other patients, residing on

floors higher up than hers, whose home has become this red-brick
church converted to a hospital in the Ď50s, perched along the
Talkeetna river, moving swiftly and quietly

over ancient rock, carrying glacial till
from the mountains toward the Susitna, where
gulls take turns feasting on clams near the gulch

Wow, I caught it, she exclaims, spilling with excitement
a docile butterfly held tenderly between her hands
a moment in time stopped, the wings a photograph

I find an old wooden chair, painted haphazardly in green
near the river, in plain sight of Joline, I page through my notebook,
find where I left off yesterday, take a sip of coffee

A slight breeze from the southwest rattles through bare trees
already shed of their skin, exposed limbs to the coming winter
scattered leaves dance and twirl, a living kaleidoscope

that Joline witnesses, an expression of awe
as her eyes sparkle, I begin to wonder if the key I seek
is a palette, a paintbrush and a canvas for her to explore

Caw, caw, cawÖ echoes through the barren grounds,
perched high in the red oak trees, a jet black crow
keeps an eye on moving objects, becoming fixated

upon Joline, silence overcoming thought, as their eyes interlock
a game of curiosity, Iím the only witness, too engrossed to reach
pen to paper and record this moment, not wanting to disturb

And then it turns, one last look before flight
extended wings, a blur as the echo mutes
and disappears over the river to the north.

© 2009 by William Ricci. All rights reserved.

William Ricci is an outdoor enthusiast and amateur photographer, whose love interest is caffeine. Stories and photos are on his website at www.provenlife.com. This is his first published poem in over 15 years.