Chamber Music At Assisted Living

She’s the one I’ll remember,
among the five pale figures who wander in
like blown leaves, early for lunch:

The way she peers around an arch,
half an inquisitive face, the joints
and fingers of one white hand.

The way her eyes seem to ask:
What’s happening in the lounge?
What is that music? and stare

across the low, brick fountain
as if she has a story to tell
or expects news or messages.

But we and Kuhlau let her down,
and she turns and drifts away,
looking for a place to light

in that meadow of linen tablecloths
and folded napkins at each plate.



About the Poet: Pushcart nominee John Palen’s Open Communion: New and Selected Poems was published by Mayapple Press in 2005. Since then he has had chapbooks published by March Street Press and Pudding House, and poetry, fiction and memoir appearing or forthcoming in Sleet, Prick of the Spindle, Gulf Stream, Citron Review, Poydras Review, Upstreet, Elder Mountain, The Chaffin Journal and other publications. He lives in Central Illinois.








buried in email chit-chat
a last surviving aunt has died

an old lady's handkerchiefs
folded in a drawer

strata of tilted rock
where semis crawl up the gradesaxifrage contending
with snow, ice, freeze and thaw
in pitiable crevices

your back to the cold wind.
a bus turns the hilltop corner
comes your way

steady, public, majestic
acknowledging your presence
with blinking yellow lights

warmth of strangers
“hum of your valved voice”
a place out of the world's
mean weather

About the Author: John Palen's short fiction collection, Small Economies, was published in January 2012 by Mayapple Press. His poetry has appeared recently in Gulf Stream, Prick of the Spindle, Jelly Bucket, and Clapboard House. He reviews literary magazines for New Pages and blogs about poetry and fiction at Midwest Writer,