Is also called “board and care” and Mike likes being there,
He phones his friend to say. Reports “The people here
Are friendly.” Twelve in twelve rooms and staff of three on hand.
Within a block of a Catholic church, too, Mike was happy to discover.
He is a Catholic, religion is important to him, and he gets there with his walker.
A patio is part of the place. Often now he sits there in the sun.
Oakland is ten degrees warmer than where he lived before he fell
And could no longer manage on his own. In the patio is hollyhock.
Mike’s boyhood and youth was had in rural Oklahoma. The friend
Hails from Texas. But they did not meet until 1973, when both
Found themselves in San Francisco – found themselves, yes,
For both are gay. The friend is very happy for Mike
Though doubting he will go for a visit to the new place;
Taking public transportation across the bay, the mere thought of doing so,
Deters. Actually, he has not seen Mike for – what is it now, six years? –
Although the two conversed over the phone each week
When Mike lived in a downtown San Francisco Tenderloin hotel
(Public transportation, even there, succeeded in discouraging the pal)
And exchanged poems they wrote, Mike sending neatly-written ones
On pale blue stationery, his friend using a computer to write and print
His, versifying after Mike no longer did. It is true that the friend
Thinks Mike is the nicer person: sweeter, more patient, less prickly,
Much kinder; he would like to have learned niceness
From their relationship. Now the friend experiences
Envy, being elderly – twelve years older than Mike –
And living on his own except for a beloved cat
And a decent person who pays money to occupy
One room of the two-room studio apartment
Where the concept of “Assisted Living” has arrived
To begin to fill the space two stairway flights up. Mike’s friend fell
And has chosen to walk with a cane, often feels sorry for himself,
Dreads an unknown future. Would like some hollyhock.
Mike is at Primrose Gardens on Fruitvale Avenue. His friend stays on 20th Street.
Jonathan Bracker’s poems appear in The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, other periodicals; and in seven collections including Concerning Poetry: Poems About Poetry. He is the editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems Of Christopher Morley; co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley; and editor of A Little Patch Of Shepherd’s-Thyme: Prose Passages of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse.