Sig shuffles down the long hall
of the nursing home.
Never lifts his slippered feet
from the linoleum.
His left hand tracks the railing.
In his right, he juggles coffee
in a paper cup.
It is for Helen, the blind woman
who will not leave her room.
His gray hair parts compliantly
above the steel-wool of his beard.
His wire-rimmed eyes fixed
safely on the floor.
We sit. He calls me ma'am
and hands his paperbacks to me.
Max Brand. Louis L'Amour.
He says his family sold him
at about the age of four.
"Too many mouths to feed."
His voice betrays no bitterness.
I wait. He offers nothing more.
Until I'm standing at the door
and then, Sig presses me to take
hard candies wrapped in cellophane,
round colors trembling slightly
in his hand.
-- Deb Cooper