Church of the Wheelchair Ladies

by Mary MacGowan
The Waters
Second Place, September 2020
Judged by Ron Singer

The sun always came in at a certain time
through a window near the nurse’s station.
The wheelchair ladies would slowly
make their way. If you asked them
where they were going, they couldn’t say.
But they got there, and napped
in the sun, their heads hanging
down tragically, fine dust motes
floating around them. It looked bad
to visitors, though, so we were
to move them. How about I take you
to your room for a nap? They’d answer,
Oh no, thank you dear, it’s so nice here,
in the sun. We’d wheel them to their rooms
anyway, and then, before we knew it,
they were back, their petite slippered feet
splayed like murder victims, or saints.

This poem casts a penumbra around its mundane subject, women at an old-age home who enjoy sitting in the sun. The matter-of-fact tone keeps the poem from being sentimental, a hazard of poems about old people. The lines are fairly even in length, and the poet uses internal rhyme at a few key junctures “make their way…they couldn’t say” and “thank you dear, it’s so nice here. Both the imagery and sound pattern of the closing one-and-a-half lines are startling and beautiful “Their petite slippered feet/splayed like murder victims, or saints”). --Ron Singer