Finalist – 2024 James H. Nash Contest



I am the one in uniform,
white belt, brass buckle,
keys on a clip that tinkle
hope that none of them hear.
I wheel them, their tufts of hair, 
their veined and scabby scalps,
heads lying to one shoulder or the other;
wheel them through odors of urine 
and a musk of Pine-Sol and bacon.
Wheel them down a dim, echoey corridor
yellow lamplight casting pyramids on walls.
I wheel one after the other,
flour-sacks of spidery arms and knobbed knees
laboring to follow one breath with another.
I wheel them into a line 
before the pine doors of the dining room,
closed and locked until the appointed hour.
I wheel them in silence,
only the gummed soles of my shoes 
shushing against the linoleum 
as I park them side by side,
their backs to a blank wall.

MARK W. KUMMING has a Masters Degree in English and taught ESL and Comp at the University level. A former RN, he completed a career as a medical products sales rep and trainer in 2010. Mark is 72 and returned to writing poetry two years ago after a 50 year hiatus. He volunteers with SLPC and also raises money for Circle of Concern food pantry in Valley Park. He facilitates the Babler Poetry Society, a collection of St. Louis poets who write poetry and read one another’s work. He is deeply indebted to his spouse of 47 years, Deborah.