Christmas at the Health Care Center on the West Mesa
My aunt is a wisp of curled hair,
Tiny cumulonimbus clouds circling
Her ninety years of life.
Outside, the contrails of great jets
Streak through the clear blue sky.
There is seldom snow in the singular
Motions of the winter of New Mexico.
Ah, but when the snow falls
It brings out the child to play!
We move toward some Christmas rendezvous
Now, each our own way as best we can
Across the nursing home landscape.
Her world bound now by the frontier
Of wheelchair to bed
And bed to wheelchair, my aunt
Dances round and round inside her head.
She dances back to the thirties and twenties
And says she loves me very much.
I give her a toy to pass the time.
It changes color to the touch.
Now she makes her own rainbows
As she talks of small angels
Who sang all morning in choir
Moving from room to room.
My aunt chatters on and on.
She is dancing to some faraway desire
Caught up in her own deep song.
She is dancing toward the bright light.
She is dancing toward Bethlehem
Deep in the interior of the nursing home.
We hear off in the distance a ghost train
Whistling to a crescendo
Then fade, Doppler effect, into a moan.
I think of Van Gogh’s whirling stars
Turning the dark to a blinding white,
Fred Astaire and his dazzling smile,
And for me there is no regret.
I hear great-grandfather’s violin
Cracked and silenced a long time ago.
It plays the tunes he must have played
At weddings, funerals, gatherings like this.
Those songs are like the missing voices
From the old photograph in the album
All this is about to become.