Spring, 2004, Wisconsin Academy Review Poetry Contest,
third prize. Judge Denise Sweet on "The Smoothie":
"This poem deserves a slow reading, a mindful listening, and a respect for the poetic intention. Others might think 'The Smoothie' a melancholic narrative, as I first did in quick reaction to its premise and the characters residing within. After a second reading, one recognizes both the boldness and the understatement working side by side in this piece. Consequently, I have thrown away all the attempts I've made to write about this business of helpless mortality or my lame attempts to imitate Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.' In this careful handling of a story within a story, 'The Smoothie' gives both caution and comfort to the reader. Suddenly, you realize."



The Smoothie

“The golden years, ha!” she says, with a look,
flat on her back. Rain and fog live in her bones,
her knees buckle, the walker waits next to her bed
like a taxi, cortisone creams soothe itching
from days of bare skin on sheets,
pillows flatten her hair until it points
North like a lighthouse.

So few calls—she forgets how to use
the phone, her memory is a lost
photograph she looks for in drawers.
Eating, who cares—“There’s just
nothing that appeals.” No more taste,
or sense of direction. No more
doing laundry. No more car.
Funerals pile up like old hankies.
Days drift —a cruise that never leaves port.

Then her son walks into her room
and all the lights go back on in her smile.

This is the rabbit old age pulls
out of the hat if you’re lucky,
the alchemy of the ancient body—
a good son who sticks around,
the son who when he was half-way
into this world, the Dr. said, “Sara,
this time I really think it’s a girl,”
“O, no, you wait,” she says flat
on her back, with a look, “You keep
pulling, this one will have a tossel,
you’ll see, just like the other two.”

Half a century later, this son
is handing her a cold glass with a straw
that bends, “Hi, toots, you gotta eat—
I have a smoothie here for you,
a chocolate smoothie.” “Chocolate,”
she says, “Why, when I was a little girl
my Father would come home every day
after work and say ‘Saraleh, in velcun pocket.
Which pocket. You pick.’ “And whichever pocket
I chose, there were always Hershey kisses.”

She wipes her eyes—“What a good memory.”
“Yes, it is, Ma,” her son’s eyes well up, too,
as if he’s heard that old story for the first time;
he adds a pillow behind her head,
holds out the drink, positioning the straw,
“Well, here you go then, Ma,
See if this is as good as those kisses.”

She flicks the straw away, sits up
in a flash with surprising speed
and drains that smoothie fast
as a teenager runs for the phone.



All images, artwork and text © 2011 Louisa Loveridge Gallas

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