Playing Gin Rummy in a Rural Hospital Room
I can’t perceive any difference
between this room & the last. This game
& the one before. You smile,
slam your last cards down—a seven
& five—then declare, fingers spread wide,
Gin! Sure, I say. Why enumerate
the list of rules. I know. You can’t win
against your own mom—older now
than when I couldn’t understand the game
but liked to trace my fingers ‘round the tired, regal faces.
Give the cards back.
No response. Reaching for them,
I feel the stock sift through my hands,
the suits, the ranks all fumbling.
I look to the white board—
How are we feeling today?
a swift progression—
of fought off
above three doodled faces,
sad/blank/happy. No talk
recesses of the mind come to steal me.
What is our goal? To get better. Someone knocks.
I won’t be able to tell if the next room—
next month, the month after—is this one.
You’ve lost interest in the game.
It’s different than the one we were in when the nurse asked
Honey, why are you crying?
as I hid behind my unwashed hair.
As if you had always been unable to speak to me.
My hair used to be a brown
near black, now the ends
bleach your blonde in the summer.
When your speech returns,
slurred & distracted, the doctor looks to me.
Has it always been this way?
I ask, deal ten cards or seven?
Pick a number. There are only enough beds
in this hospital for those who cannot
leave them. Pick up your hand.
Mary Rose Manspeaker was born and raised in West Virginia. They currently live in Brooklyn, where they work for independent publisher Three Rooms Press and are pursuing an MFA with The Writer's Foundry at St. Joseph's College. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, Lammergeier, Emerge Literary Journal, and elsewhere.