8. Zen Head

They shaved his head, Caroline’s daughter Leah and his,
on the SNF terrace under dreary skies,
puffs of white cuttings piled precariously in his hand,
as if he’d gathered cirrocumulus clouds,
first carving patterns in the wheat field of his old head
into a Dennis Rodman (visiting the Dear Leader this week),
and then a modified mohawk, Elena taking snaps
as Leah did when Caroline’s head was stripped to bone.
And now the two of them, matching cue balls, smile
for the camera. David feels he’s come into his own,
this is the head he’s grown into, Caroline calls it
his zen head. The elderly residents peer through the windows
at the scene, as at fish in an aquarium pursuing their difficult tasks
under water, no less. How can they breathe down there?
This morning the night CNA, emptying the catheter bag,
asks, “What nationality are you?” She wonders about the zafu
on the floor and strip of oriental rug, David’s bald head,
his yukata, his health, walking around the floor occupied
by aging zombies as if he’d come from another world,
and he says, “Japanese.” He can hear her say to herself,
“I thought so.” She empties his yellowish Gatoraid pee (yesterday
cherry cola) and says, “I like the fifth floor better.
That’s long term. No one’s leaving. You get to know
someone until they go to heaven, and I like that.”
David says he’ll have to die somewhere, maybe soon,
but not here unless the food gets better.
Seems like he’s always on the verge of dying and then doesn’t.

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