Wild Strawberries
at St. Mary's Hospital Arbor
Jesse Graves
After a long stagger through gleaming tiles and interlocking hallways,
Through a glassed in walkway between buildings,
Fighting off a milky, breaded, cafeteria smell,
I followed your singing to a concrete bench beside a flower garden:
A pair of bright red heads peering out of the mulch,
Two wild strawberries grown in the sculpted domestic beds,
Ignoring me from beneath the shrubbery’s damp morning webs.
Why so quiet now? Mute messengers, you’ve lost your nerve. 
You live in the shadows of plastic-looking purple and yellow tulips.
An affront to hospital groundskeepers, the surgeons of the soil.
Summer air idling around us in the roar of central cooling units.
You were one of the disappointments of my childhood.
Scattered beautifully at the corners of the yard where I built castles,
In fields where we spread salt for the lumbering cows,
Along the road banks covered with gravel dust.
I defied my mother who said, they’re pretty but you can’t eat them.
You twisted my mouth into a ribbon, made my eyes stream,
Left a bitter burning film on my tongue all day.
I don’t believe you called me here to tell me anything good.

You’re not supposed to be here—you’re an irregularity,
A blemish, a spot on the x-ray of the hospital’s controlled space.
When I try to picture you as a sign of hope, of happy remembrance,
I recall a scene from a subtitled black and white movie:
An old man visits his childhood home and remembers his love 
For a young cousin, a Swedish maiden in a summer dress,
How they picked wild strawberries together by a lake.
The pair coming back inside to a fine meal, a happy clucking family.
And then I remember his dream of the clock with no hands,
The death carriage in an empty street, his own body revealed.
Late morning scrolling past and I can’t go back inside.
Life unfolding on a screen, real time and false space. Ever unfolding. 

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