The Jockey

Where are your gloves? Joyce demands
as we roll George Fenster, guide his hand
to the bedrail. He grips it tight. His ratchety voice
scrapes out an anguished Sorry. Shit like clotted paint.

I swipe his buttocks clean with a wet towel, roll
the halfsheet tight beneath him. Joyce fanfolds
the new sheet, creases it tight against his body.
We flip George to the other side. Quick swipe,

pull out the soiled linen, unroll and snap tight
the clean sheet, yank it free of wrinkles. Flop
his body back. Smooth the gown. Check the pillow.
George’s eyes glisten. His face like a pig’s. The scar

bisects his forehead, parts his thinning hair.
He was 23. Had had a decent year.
His father bought the horse, took it to his farm
outside Paducah. Shot it standing in its stall

the following winter. I forget, I say. I pretend
they’re someone’s children, ignore the threat
of infection. Don’t, says Joyce flatly,
eyes stern above her mask.

:: Ron Mohring, Beneficence (2003)

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