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October 2013, vol 8, no 3

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Doris Lynch

Island Song

He is beyond words, beyond language. The family just celebrated his eighty-fourth birthday. Needing a wheelchair, his life is controlled by a handbrake accessible only from behind. His daughter, Eve, still seeks meaning from his broken, mixed-up phrases: "Quit spingling. Toss 'em away. Hell wires rot!"

One afternoon the Haitian woman enters his room to clean after his former roommate, Tad (one of the lucky ones), has gone home. Observing their awkward tete a tete, the island woman asks, "May I sing to him? Yesterday he liked it so much."

Carefully, she leans her broom next to the mirror. I come into the garden, she begins. Eve watches her Dad. He had been scowling under his World War II cap. Now a smile blooms across his face. All tension releases from his forehead, cheeks and lips–tension that he has carried for weeks since his stroke. And He walks with me. And He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own.

In a lovely contralto, the lyrics sail out. They rise over the hospital bed, float toward the locked windows that look out on Florida Hopbush and Dwarf Live Oak. The music travels across the corridor to the old woman who sits alone in her fur coat, flexing her fingers, tapping the bare air with them as though striking the keys of an invisible piano. The sounds soothe the old man encouraging them both on this last journey. They remind his daughter to caress his palms and wrist.

last bedside vigil
Okinawa cap still warm –
curve of lily