Barry W. North
Trying to adjust to life after prostate cancer,
I am sitting on my porch this morning,
drinking coffee and watching the young girl
across the street
waiting for someone to answer the door.
Sent by the agency,
she is on her twice-a-week mission
to bathe the frail octogenarian.
Her back is to me,
her legs slightly apart,
red hair put up in a hasty bun.
Her snug clothes,
even from this distance,
highlight the youthful
and pneumatic figure,
stimulating the stumps
of desire still within me
in this torturous post-surgery world
in which sexual arousal
produces no physical reaction,
like salivating over food
without having the ability to eat.
Mercifully, before my self-pity
gets up to irreversible speed,
the door swings opens and
the girl disappears into
the dark interior of the house.
In my mind I follow her inside
and see her energy,
like an open window on a breezy day,
replace the staleness in the air
with the scent of youth,
and watch her
help the old woman,
not even twenty years ahead of me on this road,
settle into the warm, soothing water,
in preparation for her bath,
no doubt, one of the few muted pleasures
she still has in the anteroom of death.
Back at the one-man pity party,
I glance around at
the emancipated outside world
in search of some profound revelation
and, instead, find myself thinking of
that determined old lady across the way,
confined to her house,
who would not have even a shred of sympathy
for the guy on the other side of the street
sitting on his porch
“like a fool on a life raft,”
I can imagine her saying to the young girl,
“complaining that it is still afloat.”
About the author:
Barry W. North is a seventy-year-old retired refrigeration mechanic. Since his retirement in 2007, he has won the 2010 A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction and Honorable Mention in the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. His published books are Along the Highway, Terminally Human, and In the Maze. For more information please visit his website here.