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Russians in the Nursing Home

by Mary MacGowan


Basya scolds me in Russian,

Nina, Nina!

her pants down at her ankles.

Sara poured her cup of orange juice

into the newly-opened carton

and the other Sarah with an h

crumbled a cookie. Into her lap.

Maria, as usual every 5 minutes

said, Please! Drink Cold Water!

rolling her Russian r’s.

I told her,

You Had Drink

Cold Water. It was Very Good.

You Drank It All.

I asked Maria what Basya

was chiggering in Russian.

Other Self,

Maria answered.



We didn’t know.

None of us did.

I played my soprano recorder

at Deaf Anna’s side.

She leaned toward

the shrill sound and looked

at us full smile,

as amazed as we were.

She could hear it.

Deaf Anna said

I love you!

in that way

the deaf speak.

I leaned down

to her cozy-blanketed wheelchair

and kissed her hot cheek.

Her lips kept moving


I love you, I love you

as I played You Are My

Sunshine high high high.

Then she pointed at her bottom

and said, Bowel movement,

Bowel movement!

We’re told

she doesn’t have to go,

we’ve been instructed

to tell her

No, you’re fine.

Fuck you,

she mouths and moans

Fuck you!

she says to anyone’s back

as they rush out the door.


I’m sitting at a table

next to old Phil

feeling beleaguered,

angry at my ex boyfriend.

Old Phil, with his

ruddy complexion,

keeps his eyes closed now.

He holds

a pink-stockinged doll

like an ice pack

to his cheek

aflame with unrequited love.

About the Author

Mary has had over 50 poems placed in literary journals, and her chapbook, Spider Lake, was just published by Kattywompus Press.

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