Remedy

After fourteen years of downsized widowhood,
An efficiency’s garden view, and if he bent
To the kitchen’s greasy window, smokestacks
Over trees and then the light-struck river,
Which from this distance never appeared
To move, the current small creases like worn flesh,
He thought it would only take a little air
On the street, a change of scenery
To fix the ache, his good left arm discreet,
A silent counselor at his shoulder
With a determined pinch, a signal
For which he strangely lacked the strength to respond
That he understood. So he sought to predict
And thus accommodate its return
As with the neighbor he’d never met
Beyond a curt how are you, her perfect
Disapproving face, on which he’d focused
So she wouldn’t think he’d dare eye any
Other part of her, now floating over his
As she loosened his shirt. If only he’d considered
Earlier lying on concrete. The cars brushing past
Slowed on reflex as if their wheels had sunk
Into dirt, all traffic could do in homage
Like the anonymous though pleasant dusk,
The peering passengers close enough to touch
While right there a crowd bloomed around him
As in the park or a sermon, waiting
For someone to hug the accordion
Or make lesions vanish from a leper’s back,
Show them what came next. As for his flawed heart,
The attack was final, defied nitroglycerin
Then the paramedic’s brusque cajoling
But was itself a tonic for everything else.

                                                            —David Moolten

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36 comments
  1. Good golly Miss Molly, makes me want to quite dancing. You have touched a nerve of humanity – gratification at the expense of one’s physical detritus, and we all have much. I keeping sweeping mine under the rug of existing, now you have made me come face to face with the mound of debris I have gathered. David, the poem was great, thanks.
    DH

    • davidmoolten said:

      Donald, thanks for your feedback, almost a poem in itself!

  2. Wonderful layering of detail, so that that final line comes as both a surprise yet feels inevitable as well. Some of my favorites:

    “light-struck river”,

    “neighbor he’d never met
    Beyond a curt how are you”,

    “waiting
    For someone to hug the accordion”

    Glad to read this, thanks.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks for your generous and specific comments.

  3. Derrick said:

    Hi David,

    A sad tale. Loneliness and remembered things.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Derrick, thanks for your feedback.

  4. rallentanda said:

    This poem highlights the alienation and loneliness of many in society…not knowing neighbours,disapproving looks of winners to losers. In my reality Miss not so nice neighbour wouldn’t have loosened his shirt,she would have stepped over him and pretended she hadn’t noticed.Your lot must be nicer than ours. Accordion hugs and crowds blooming are evocative images.Good poem but I’m deducting 5 points for not using the words!

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Rall,

      Hopefully you underestimate your neighbors, though one never knows until the time comes, and then it’s too late.

  5. Wow. Beautiful story. a wonderfully detailed narrative. I see this man’s life, the loneliness, the neighbor, the end. Good storytelling and excellent write.
    -Nicole

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks so much Nicole.

  6. Therese said:

    A poem which bears witness to the last moments of a common man’s life, delivered through an omniscient voice both compassionate and dispassionate — a voice informed by the poet’s own career in medicine (“med” related to “remedy”). The poem is almost phenomenological, rarefied by its many delicate grace notes. With “the beauty of innuendo,” this poem asks questions which it does not answer for certain: can we predict when the moment of our death will arrive? can death be a welcome remedy for the loneliness of life? can a poet imagine the first moment after death, or only the last moment before death? Very beautiful poem.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Therese,

      Thanks for your careful and informed reading, and for your articulate and very generous comments.

  7. Very beautiful and very sad…the entire description of his loneliness at the end of his life really got to me. Nicely done.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Cynthia, thanks for your generous read.

  8. wayne said:

    David….your certainly “wimped”out….using JUST one word…..this is great……I wish I could wimp out more…use your remedy….and use just one word…..less is more or something……seems I always “think” I have to meet the CHALLENGE…and use all the words…when the real challenge for me is to use just one of the words…..thanks for sharing….and a lesson

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Wayne,

      Thanks. I struggle with the one word, have always had trouble writing in a particular “direction”, though I find visual prompts easier. I can’t imagine trying to use all of the words.

  9. Linda said:

    I was so into the sense of loneliness and alienation I never noticed whether you had used any of the “Wordle” words or not. I thought your phrases were very expressive and the situation so real. Thank you for reminding me to look in on my elderly neighbors.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Linda,

      Thank you for your kind and generous comments.

  10. I loved how this poem shifted after each conclusion. I felt as if I was reading chapter after chapter, with each new one a surprise.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you. I’m glad the switches worked. It’s sometimes hard for me to tell whether something’s obvious or opaque.

  11. I like the detail of finding an angle to see something of a view. You have a delicate touch

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Barbara.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you for your generous feedback.

  12. Amulya Rajan said:

    Visions of loneliness and obscurity… like an human being invisible in society. It’s brilliant the way you have described each detail and put across each emotion. Loved the line- the current small creases like worn flesh- so much meaning, especially in the context of this piece. Absolutely heart-wrenching piece. Thank you.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Amulya,

      I’m glad I was effective with this. Thanks for your detailed and very generous comments.

  13. Jeeves said:

    Loneliness well described. Nice one.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Jeeves.

  14. Certainly a unique take on the word “Remedy”… I adored the line “While right there a crowd bloomed around him.” A superb job, as always.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Francis,

      Thank you for the read and for your very kind remarks.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks so much. Yes, focusing on one word can sometimes be easier, at least for me. I tend to need to imagine narrative situations for my poems versus scenes or in addition to them. In that kind of poem, trying to get all the words in can seem forced, at least in my hands.

  15. nathan said:

    Such wonderful observations! You have such a skill for rendering detail, as in “As with the neighbor he’d never met
    Beyond a curt how are you, her perfect
    Disapproving face, on which he’d focused
    So she wouldn’t think he’d dare eye any
    Other part of her.”
    Fantastic!

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Nathan. I tend to think visually. If I can “see” the action in my head, things usually turn out better than if I can’t. My writer’s block usually consists of mental blindness rather than muteness…

  16. Liz said:

    I’m a week late getting over here (my fussy dial-connection calls for a slower pace) but it’s worth it. What a gem! I love the precise details that bring this character’s life into focus in its final moments. You say so much with so few carefully chosen words.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Liz,

      Thanks for getting here at all and reading the poem. I appreciate the feedback, and am grateful for your positive comments.

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