Joann Gardner is an associate professor of English at Florida State University and a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Louisiana Literature, and Comstock Review. Her chapbook La Florida won the Weldon Kees Prize and was published by Backwaters Press. These poems originally appeared in Gardner’s chapbook The Deaf Island published by The Poetry Society of America as part of their prestigious PSA Chapbook Fellowship Program.
Image: Carol Gardner
The Deaf Island – XIII.
From WTP Vol. VII #10
Small knuckles of new growth on the maples outside.
A crisp breeze, querulous sky, extended waiting.
There is silence—well, not exactly. The T. V. chatters on.
The window is open. Cars whiz by. Occasionally, a train.
My father eats with his eyes closed. My mother
feeds him. They do not speak except to direct attention
to what is needed: —No, that’s for later.—Here, take this.
—I want milk. —I want juice. —Wait. I need to chew.
And the humming bodies are gathered in the dining room,
eating or sleeping. Everyone at home.
We sit in our chairs watching M.A.S.H. My father watches
with us. He laughs at the punch lines. My mother asks,
“Do you like M.A.S.H.? He answers, “I used to.”
Ida walks in, the silent one in slippers. She tests each step
she makes as if inching her way along the side of a building.
She does not speak, but moves into the room. Pauses.
Then goes out.
I’ve cried all morning. Yesterday, we were robbed,
and, of course, I couldn’t do anything about it.
He had a beautiful basket. I didn’t see what was in it,
but he stole my voice.
This morning, his eyes and nose were all bloody.
They made me lie here while they fixed him. I want
Mary. My clothes are dirty. Are we on the right floor?
In another room, someone is repeating the mantra,
“Phil” or “filth” or “hell” or “pills.” She can’t find them—
her pills—so she launches this half-formed sound
into the air. We all launch cries into the indefinite,
hoping to make contact with a being that can help.