Runners Up

Constance H. Gemson
In Someone Else’s Home

I am the hospice worker,
Holding the sadness when others have turned away.
Families welcome me with water, with tea, with juice.
I enter with notes, date books and measured time.
I sit on the black couch plush with pillows
or the wooden chair saved for company.
I listen at the formica kitchen table with plastic table mats
or the elegant dining room filled with family photos where
everyone is young.
My time is rationed for each round of sorrows.

I see the calendar on the wall filled with notes of doctor’s visits.
The next month all the spaces will be blank.

Here in Harlem, I remember to address the father, the patient
ad usted, the formal polite grace.
He is the patriarch. He is serious, somber.
nodding his head without words.
His daughter listens to my Spanish, flat like soda without the buoyant fizz.
Her English is spiced with the tune of Puerto Rico
Spanish is home, in memory, meaning and hope.
I hear salsa in her speech. I see sand and beach in her words.
Soon, this daughter will face her fatherless future.
Offering her what comfort I can, I listen to her stream of words.
She transforms my name to Constanza.



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