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Assisted Living by J. Allyn Rosser

Assisted Living

by J. Allyn Rosser

published in The Atlantic

They sit at tables close enough around

To nudge, reach for salt, and chat about the day,

But none of them has all that much to say.

Their voices dissipate and ravel. They sound

As though they’re calling out from far away.

As though there were a shy ventriloquist

Between them, unskilled in how to steady

Gestures, turn the torso, turn the head,

So wholly focused on not moving his lips,

He half forgets to follow his own scripts.

Their children come infrequently, arriving

Shortly before they leave. They always leave.

The kids, the jobs, the house, the car, so brief

A time for reconnecting and forgiving,

For meeting each other’s eyes, and forgiving,

They may as well live in some country far away.

Maybe they do, yes, or just one, perhaps

One of them once did. But now it’s time for naps

And Jeopardy, then bingo, crafts, crochet.

So many activities, so little to do, they say.

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