In the end the sun behind Last Acres
assisted living facility drops regular
as meds that keep us deep in recliners,
the raw yellowy footage of our lives
screened across a cataract vellum.
No need to worry, the thread lost,
the arc gone. Was there ever one?
we ask, sifting the cutting room floor.
Out in the garden, time’s mandibles
gnaw peony, grass, sky—what’s left
of the mind’s extracted landscape.
By now, we are too frail to edit
nail through sneaker, slug through toes,
overflowing toilets, parachute pants,
dried-vomit hair, when we had hair.
And too old to comprehend the new
medium spooning the feed through
half-crocked lids, tremors, diapers
too soiled to feel good in, too warm
to maneuver out of. Even so, the urge
for the feel of a minor epic—This!
Wasn’t this kind? This beautiful?
Mostly, as God, that last orderly, lost
in his own loop, confusing protest
for consent, pushes us down flaming
linoleum with mitts soft as newborn feet,
we slide indignant and befuddled
toward a pleathery fate, screaming,
yet barely audible—No, not that way,
not that way at all, to our children,
whose names we forgot. The way soon
we forgot we had children and tongues
to say their names, who stare blinking
at the end of the hallway, holding a box:
clippings lengths tangles. Dad’s Stuff.
This is how the movie ends in movies—
The fade, the retreat, image dissolving
into the bath that bore it. Someone being
handed back something never theirs.
Praise this, as you would all day praise
the film of our inner lives
before it becomes a corrupted file.
Praise this tech in a converted closet
wasting hours scanning every digital
well and hollow, this quiet recovery,
every flicker, feather, call, bit by bit.
James Hoch’s books are Miscreants (Norton), A Parade of Hands (Silverfish), and the forthcoming Last Pawn Shop in New Jersey (LSU). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Republic, Washington Post, Slate, Kenyon Review, Tin House, Ploughshares, and the Best American Poetry anthology.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.