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Emily Dickinson said that poems come at the truth at a slant. Here a birdbath and some overturned chairs on a nursing home lawn suggest the frailties of old age. Masterful poems choose the very best words and put them in the very best places, and Michigan poet Rodney Torreson has deftly chosen “ministers” for his first verb, an active verb that suggests the good work of the nursing home’s chaplain.

The Bethlehem Nursing Home

A birdbath ministers

to the lawn chairs,

all toppled: a recliner

on its face, metal arms

trying to push it up;

an overturned rocker,

curvature of the spine.

Armchairs on their sides,

webbing unraveled.

One faces the flowers.

A director’s chair

folded, as if prepared

to be taken up.

 

From “A Breathable Light,” New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2002, and first published in Cape Rock. Copyright 2002 by Rodney Torreson; reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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