Monday, July 5, 2010

Striking a Bargain with Nora

Nora lives in an old folks home
for those whose minds are going.
She looks sharp as a tack
in her flowered polyester blouse
that buttons at the wrists
and her beige polyester pants
with shoes to match.
“I wonder if we might strike a bargain”
she says to me, as I sit on the bed
watching my mother push her walker
into the wall as if she could push
her way into another life.

We introduce ourselves politely
paying no attention to my mother
and then Nora asks, “Would you be
interested in taking that off my hands
for twenty-five dollars? At this
point I just want to be rid of it.”
What have you got for sale? I ask.

Nora looks bemused.
“It is one those things,” she ventures
gesturing with her hands
“with the white on it…” She pauses
frowning into the distance. Then
she looks at me with purpose.
“I wonder if we might strike a bargain”
she says. “I’ll let you have it all
for twenty-five dollars.”
I smile at her.
My mother is in the bathroom
pushing against the wall
with her walker and determination.

Will you take a check? I ask Nora.
May I deposit it into your bank?
Nora stares at me, speechless.
“Well,” she says as my mother turns
to the other wall and tries to push it
into China. “I suppose
that might be all right.”
But she isn’t sure.

I wish that Nora were my mother.
I wish I could give her
twenty-five dollars to see
what she would do. I notice
my mother pushes her cart
against the wall just like
my old cat pushed herself
against the wall when she was
dying. Nora, I say to her,
I would like to strike a bargain.
For twenty-five dollars
will you take my mother
off my hands?
This is my ticket on the Poetry Bus, taking its world tour this week. The Weaver of Grass told us to write about an unexplained incident. Or a person. I chose to write about three unexplained people: What is Nora up to? Why does my mother try to push through walls? And who am I, to offer my mother to a total stranger for 25 bucks? You'll find other bus riders here. Enjoy!


RNSANE said...

If only it were that easy, Chris! I don't think you'd find any takers for a hundred dollars, sadly. My mother continues on in her miserable state but, at least, she's oblivious of it all.

Brian Miller said...

mmm...masterfully written...these hang heavy at the edge of my heart though....

The Bug said...

I love this! Sounds like Nora was a yard-saler - or maybe a flea market junkie. I wonder if you really did offer your mother for $25? I know that writing those words down is based on actual feelings about the situation, but I'm sorry, I find it very funny & appropriate :)

Woman in a Window said...

Chris, you just struck me down! Holy holy. You just struck me down. This is so incredibly powerful.


Woman in a Window said...

Chris, I just read this again aloud to my partner and he and I agree with a very large exhale, this is brilliant.


Scott said...


Magpie said...

Your writing is so sad edged with humor...but what else can you do at this point? We must see the humor in our little lives or die under the pressure. God Bless you.

Derrick said...

Despair and humour in equal measure. In such situations, one either laughs or cries and the former is preferable!

The Weaver of Grass said...

You have managed to get over that feeling of an alien world which seems to accompany elderly people in such places. Thanks for jumping on the bus.

Dianne said...

vivid, and authentic. We see it and want to look away, and you pull us back in.

keep looking, say hi to Y.C.!

Rachel Fox said...

Good detail, good story...shame about the truth.

Syd said...

Oh Chris I remember my mother seemed a bit like Nora at the end. She prided herself on her dress. Yet she would give away all kind of things to other residents. Her wedding band went missing and so I got her a fake diamond to wear as a ring. Later the real one was stolen. Sad about this old age thing that creeps up on us.

Dominic Rivron said...

I worked in a home for elderly people as a teenager: the scenario is very real. I found the last question really clever: it meant more the more I thought about it. More than just a desire to opt out: is it an invitation to the blind to lead the blind, or a fantastic suggestion that Nora can open the door into another world?

Totalfeckineejit said...

Interesting reading Woman in the windows comment because I exhaled deeply after reading this too.

It's a very good poem, almost too good, goes beyond words on a page , so deep ,so real.This is uncomfortable reading, lord alone knows what it's like writing it.Poetry can be such a powerful tool, like nothing else.
That image of your mother trying to push herself into another life is vivid.

Enchanted Oak said...

For some reason, Blogger made some of your comments vanish. Woman in the Window, for example, sent a second beautiful note that is now floating in the ether. Sigh.