MOUTHS, Grace Harriman

Mouths
by Grace Carley Harriman

1.
Cambridge. MA, 1975

My young son
Steers the pulpy letters
From alphabet soup
Until his tomato red finger
Spells out in the bowl:
YES, BIRD, NO.
He raises the bowl
And drinks his words.

2.
Bath, Maine 2013

On Winter Sundays
I drive to Hill House and Winship Hall
To deliver the sacrament
To the very elderly.
I carry a linen cloth,
The gold chip,
The correct number of wafers.

I know the eleven recipients well,
Not through conversation,
But through the details:
The reader of mystery novels,
The laughing lady
With coloring books and crayons,
The dignity in the posture of the veteran.
The twin sisters with rouge spots,
The beautiful woman with coiled hair,
Crocheting an afghan.

They know me most Sundays,
Except Elizabeth, on the Alzheimer ward.
She scoots her wheelchair
Her slippered feet move fast,
a scuttling crab.
When I touch her shoulder
She will look into my eyes.

I would not attempt
To guess at the words
They would choose
To steer in empty soup bowls,

Every open mouth is familiar
To me as their faces.
I place the wafer on each tongue,
Between glossy gums.

The wafer disintegrates.
“This is the bread of life.
Taste and See that the Lord is good.”

Do not diminish or demean.
The rooms fill and empty.
Do not recoil from decay.
Do not diminish or demean.

Grace Carley Harriman spent her life in Cambridge, Mass., teaching English and Chinese History to Middle Schoolers. She self published two anthologies of a wide variety of poems with creative writing assignments for each entry. She has traveled to China 14 times, to tour and volunteer teach in the Pangliu Village School and the Dandelion School outside Beijing. She retired to Bath, Maine where she writes poetry, gardens and walks her dogs.

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