THE WAY TO MILDER MANOR
I don’t know if the rest home
lives up to its name, but I can
tell him how to get there:
up 20th, near Prospect –
around the corner from my place.
Sunshine. Maybe forty degrees.
I’m a stranger and there’s no reason
for him to tell me what he does next –
which is that he is dying.
Cancer. Too far gone to treat.
He’s sixty at most. Rather handsome.
A silver pony tail, faint accent –
British? Maybe Australian? I’m curious,
but can’t bring myself to ask.
He stands beside the idling Ford
he jumped out of to stop me, clutching
an armful of books he wants to donate
to strangers living in assisted care.
I won’t be needing them long, he says.
I nod, speechless beyond sorry.
It was only a check-up, he says. Routine.
But, of course, now nothing is.
Turn right up here,
I say, cross South. Go straight
and you can’t miss it.
He thanks me for the little help
I give, drives off in his Focus,
his back seat stacked with volumes
I now wish I knew the titles of,
words I assume he loves so much
he’s determined to give them away.
Grace Bauer’s books of poems include Retreats & Recognitions, Beholding
Eye, and The Women At The Well. She has also published three chapbooks,
and is co-editor, with Julie, Kane, of the anthology Umpteen Ways of Looking
at A Possum: Critical & Creative Responses to Everette Maddoox. Her latest
book, Nowhere All At Once, has been published by Stephen F. Austin State
University Press. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she also serves as a Contributing Editor to Prairie
About “The Way to Milder Manor”: This is one of those poems that came to
me as a strange sort of gift. I really do live around the corner from a facility
that really is called Milder Manor. (What poet would not love, and ponder,
the name?) And the incident I describe in the poem really did happen. It
was one of those random encounters that totally transforms an ordinary
day. A meeting with a stranger – for less than five minutes – that I will
likely never forget. I went home and immediately tried to write the poem –
though it took me several years to get the tone right.