Judith Lechner

In a Nursing Home

 You are surrounded by

reminders of who

you used to be.


A painting of your garden of

rare trees and flowers,

ponds, bridges, gazebo,

you designed and built;


a wedding picture in which we both

wear white suits and burgundy shirts.

I sport a Jackie Kennedy pillbox

with velvet-dotted veil. You, with

cigar in hand, look like the owner

of a prosperous tropical casino.


Photos of the dogs and cats we had

instead of children. Photos of

collages that covered whole walls,

stoneware sculptures taller than you,

bowls and plates large enough for

a giant’s dinner, graceful vases,

all gleaming with iridescence.


Sometimes we sit outside in

the courtyard garden of your

final home, watch the stream’s

farther bank for a glimpse of

deer and fawn, swimming beaver,

birds that fly from feeder to tree.


You talk very little these days,

laugh even less. But today, you

sit in your wheelchair watching

yellow and black banded bees

drink from the small white

blossoms of a viburnum bush.


“Bumblebees should not be able to fly,”

you say. “Look at their small wings.”


They say you can’t think well anymore.

But today you speak firmly:


“I’ve learned from the bumblebee.

It shouldn’t be able to fly

but it does.”



A flight of stairs steepens into a mountain.***

Names once well-known slip

from his mind’s directory.

Eyes go out of focus while driving.

Not enough energy or strength in his muscles

to pluck, press, and bow the strings of his bass.


Microscopic warriors are entrenched

in the dense tissue of my love’s

brain        eyes        heart

replicating with manic speed

and flinging arrows


of pain that morph into chainsaw

teeth. His eyes veil and twitch

in their sockets. His walk is out

of balance. Boulders crash inside

his head. Thick fog engulfs his mind.


We put our faith in the power

of potions and practitioners.

We spend our days plotting

his next assault  against the enemy.

Reluctantly he puts his life on hold.


We’ve joined an army

no one volunteers for,

on a forced march

that may last for years,

no guarantee of ever


a safe haven.


Judith Lechner’s debut book of poetry, The Moon Sings Back, was published in 2011 by Waterside Press. Her poetry has appeared inChronogram, Home Planet NewsEdnaHenryLiterary Gazette and other literary journals and in anthologies including Festschrift for Enid Dame. Her poems and essays have been read on radio (WAMC, WKZE, WDST) and interpreted with visual art at Alliance Gallery and Arts Society of Kingston. Judith has been a featured reader at many venues in New York’s Hudson Valley, including the Woodstock Poetry Festival. She is a member of the Goat Hill Poets, a group that performs poetry as an ensemble and has published an anthology. On the second Friday of each month, she hosts a Writer’s Night at Mezzaluna in Saugerties where poetry and prose of outstanding local authors is featured. A former teacher, she has been a writer and editor, for many years, of educational materials for students and teachers from elementary school through community college. Judith has published 24 nonfiction books and numerous articles.


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