She Always Sleeps with the Radio On

My sister Betty, ages three to seventy three


She Always Sleeps with the Radio On

Each night,
      as I negotiate
              the squeaky stairs
                   from her attic guest room
           down to the bathroom
     one more time,
I hear the voices.

I imagine them as her companions,
    drowning out night sounds,
        freeing her mind from its hard task
of remembering.

Tonight, she sits on a lawn chair
on the grass. I sit on the front steps,
listening
   to a friend on the
     steps next to me, strumming, strumming,
as my sister and I sing along
in high school harmony.

The little girls across the street
       are the first to come,
       tiny lawn chairs in arms,
  to plop themselves in front of us
for the concert.

As they settle, my sister says,
“Now, back to the music.”

Moments later, their mother follows,
   bringing initial happy news
       of their upcoming trip
to a lake where last year
a teenage girl had been abducted,
         a segue to more disturbing news
of yesterday’s daylight intruder
flushed from a house a block away.

I’d noticed
    the police car
       circling, puzzled
           by his vigilance as we walked
      the neighborhood today.
 I’d smiled at the man on the bike who didn’t look
      a part of this neighborhood, wondering how he’d fare,

but now I feel the threat of him.

“House of the Rising Sun,” stops dog-walkers in their tracks
  as the litle ones
     sit on the sidewalk
         stringing beads I brought,
capturing this night
to hang around their necks:
gray plastic elephants,
            pink stars,
                   orange hearts,
                           green dolphins strung midleap
on sparkly purple cord.

This night strings us all together:
                  beads, words, music, the night sounds
of insects and frogs,

                                                 happy stories interspersed with fearful ones,
traffic from the busy street one block away.
             Hungry mosquitoes,
                    gathering suddenly,
are what break us apart.

     As we climb the stairs,
             her door
                        next
                            to the only
                                   bathroom
                     in the house
              closes.

For the first time 
    in the week I’ve been here,
          I hear no radio
                on my nightlong explorations
down the stairs.

At ten o’clock, 1:30 and 3,
          the hall outside her bedroom
                         stays silent,
          this evening’s full company
flooding over into the night.

We have exhausted her mind, filled it, worn her out.
           She stlll feels our presence.
                     
                                Four a.m.

A creaking door, and once again,
          silence becomes
        a cup for her to fill.
            Something is needed
to relieve worry—
to leave no room
    for either remembering
  or the lack of it.
I hear them then, insistent, down the stairs and in the hall.

                       Voices all night long.

 

 

The prompt word today is insist.

17 thoughts on “She Always Sleeps with the Radio On

    1. lifelessons Post author

      I hated it that I only had a picture of her after she developed Alzheimers. Went back in my files and finally found a few more. When we were little, she was the family photo-taker, so there are regrettably very few of her.

      Like

      Reply
      1. calensariel

        His poetry doesn’t try to dress everything up so I have a hard time understanding it. Your poetry is that way, too. It’s like listening to you tell a story. But then that’s what you are! A storyteller.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. lifelessons Post author

        Well, his method of relaying the story is wonderful. Basically we are reading him for his viewpoint and the way he states it. Doesn’t matter what he’s talking about. Thank you for bringing him to my attention. Yes, plain speaking, but beautiful plain speaking.

        Liked by 1 person

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