The old man tells me, “If I didn’t have my thousand acres,
I would die.” He doesn’t realize he is in the hospital
emergency waiting room. “If I didn’t have my wife,
I would die.” He looks at me sincerely, clearly unaware
of the situation at hand, his hand trembling
on the arm of his wheelchair. “She’s at home
making supper for the hired help, you know,
when they come back from driving cows to pasture.”
But he hasn’t had cattle for over thirty years,
and his acreage now only exists framed in pictures
in his small room at the nursing home where his wife
also was full of life before she died five years ago.
I know because the man’s caretaker told me
when she wheeled him in to wait, just in case
he needed to say goodbye to his daughter
rushed in by ambulance an hour before.
Aware the woman’s heart attack was massive,
I casually ask if he has any children. He hesitates,
tries to remember, then settles, “No, I don’t think so,
but if I did and anything happened to them, I would die.”
Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb is the author of the chapbook, Shapes That Stay (Kelsay Books, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Weber: The Contemporary West, About Place Journal, High Desert Journal, Clockhouse, AJN: The American Journal of Nursing, Terrain.org, and many other journals. She holds an interdisciplinary MA and has served in various capacities as an educator, a researcher, and an editor.