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American Life in Poetry

Here’s a poem by Robin Chapman, from Wisconsin, that needs no introduction, because we’ve all known an elderly person who’s much like this one.


My neighbor, 87, rings the doorbell to ask

if I might have seen her clipping shears

that went missing a decade ago,

with a little red paint on their shaft,

or the iron turkey bank and the porcelain

coffee cup that disappeared a while back

when her friend, now dead, called the police

to break in to see if she were ill, and have we

had trouble with our phone line, hers

is dead and her car and driver’s license

are missing though she can drive perfectly

well, just memory problems, and her son

is coming this morning to take her up

to Sheboygan, where she was born

and where the family has its burial lots,

to wait on assisted living space, and she

just wanted to say we’d been good neighbors

all these how many? years, and how lucky

I am to have found such a nice man

and could she borrow a screwdriver,

the door lock to her house is jammed.

Poem copyright 2012 by Robin Chapman. Poem reprinted from the Alaska Quarterly Review, Volume 28, nos. 1&2 (Spring/Summer 2011) by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation and Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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