BOOKS & THE CULTURE On Being Called Elderly for the First Time Strapped down, the board holds fast my neck and back. A light above shines brightly on my face. Ken monitors my pressure, pulse, the rack. I hear the siren wailing as we race. On holiday deep in the Berkshire hills, seized by a back pain so intense, I tear. My call brings help so quickly and so skilled. Perhaps, it is her spinal cord, they fear. Five minutes out, Ken calls; his words confound: “A female, elderly, severe back pain, seventy-two, her vital signs are sound.” This image he describes does not pertain. My spirits sink. I’m shocked. How can it be? It’s not a word I’d ever apply to me. CELE S. KEEPER Child of the child of the missing limb the heart of the world now missing the child of the missing garden the roots of the child now missing the child of the river running the child of the river broken into sides into banks into nightmares the child cannot climb who says now i can’t sleep i try to forget i have such difficulty feeling anymore who is the child of misvisions who knows bombs among spring flowers who is the powerless child of wishes of fathers of mothers of wanting warm-and-safe-at-home not the child of the burning cloud not the child of mistrials or freely the large stone flung one afternoon when thought was simple and looking up there was only blue no no stone nothing thrown or born into the heart of the child who forgot the sound of laughter who remembers friends who says which live which are dead who says i am speaking to you will the waiting be long? LEIGH HERRICK Cele S. Keeper, retired social worker and resident of Houston, says she has “come upon writing late in life.” She has been a laboratory technician, a bookstore owner, and a university professor of human sexuality. She is still a political activist, an avid reader, a fanatical theater-goer, a wife and mother. Leigh Herrick lives in Minnesota. She has been poet-in-resi dence at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, and recently completed a new manuscript of poems, two of which appeared in Artword Quarterly. She writes, “…language is inherently political and so, consequently, is poetry.” The italicized lines in her poem come from a UNICEF publication, I Dream of Peace: Images of War by Children of Former Yugoslavia. Poetry editor’s note: Congratulations to Kathleen Peirce, who recently was awarded the William Carlos Williams poetry prize. Her poems appeared in our February 5, 1999 issue. Naomi Shihab Nye MARCH 31, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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