A Poem by Karen Mandell




Rose Has a New Walker



We buy it online. She got her old one,

standard issue gray aluminum, at the hospital

after she fell at Susie’s house last summer.

It’s a man’s walker, and she holds her elbows out like bent wings

when she grasps the handles. It’s too wide for her.

I toss out the question one day, if you had a new walker

what color would you choose.

Blue, she says, just like that. I order blue.

When it comes, we connect the hand brakes,

attach the basket and the seat,

pull the plastic off the wheels.

Can I return it, Rose says.

It’ll be hard, I tell her. It’s from the Internet.

She feels better knowing there’s no choice.

But it’s always good to try again.

Maybe I won’t need it. I ride the exercise bike now.

And in Chi Gong class I stand up longer.

Before I did the exercises from the chair.

Anyway, it’s not blue. I think it’s black.

So for that we’ll return it? It’s navy.

Under the lamp we compromise on navy black

I tell her to try the seat. But always remember

To press the hand brakes when you sit down.

It’s like the brakes on a bike.

She doesn’t get it. She never rode a bike, she says,

she roller skated everywhere, to the botanical conservatory,

to the library. She tightened the skates with a key she wore

around her neck. When they broke, and that was often,

her father would fix them, a tragedy you kids never met him.

I ask Rose to push the walker in the hall.

She can’t help smiling; stately, royal she glides like the King’s barge

down the Thames. The waters part before her; I hear Handel’s music.

It’s nice, she says. But what should I do with the old one. A shame to waste it.

It’ll be a spare, I say. Maybe we’ll take it in the car when we go out.

Remember when Daddy taught me how to ride, I say. Running beside me,

his hand on the fender and then letting go.

Of course I remember, she says, he taught all of you.

And then I was free to pedal around the block, up to the drug store,

turn right, turn right again, over and over, centrifugally

pulled by the gravity of home.




Karen Mandell has taught writing at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, Mount Ida College in Newton MA, and literature at Framingham South High School. She’s also taught literature at various senior centers in the Boston area. Karen received three writing awards: first place from the American Poetry Society/Oil of Olay contest in 2004, second place winner of the Muriel Craft Bailey award, 2004, and the Charlotte Newberger award from Lilith Magazine.


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