You Carried Her In Your Arms – Charlene Fix

You carried her in your arms back to our house,
having found her, frail and old, collapsed on the sidewalk.
She wasn’t dead, but she was hard to revive.

I lay down on the carpet beside her as if she were a cat.
When she stirred, I offered her orange juice
instead of water. She took a few sips, sat, stood up,

pronounced herself well, then told us a lie: that she
had merely been out walking, circling the block
with every intention of ending up at the house of a friend.

You carried her in your arms although you didn’t know
who or what she was, as I have carried in my heart’s arms
childhood friends with parents bearing numbers

needled on their skin. The old woman wasn’t dressed
for a commemoration, but that was where she was
expected to be, as an honoree representing a generation

of genocide survivors. I knew this because I went
out to the street to ask passers-by. It seemed to be
falling to me to get her there, to a house of former

elegance with a small dining room, tables set looking
a little tacky, barely enough chairs. I had to squeeze
one into no space at her table for myself.

I worried about her loose pedal pushers and t-shirt,
but in truth, she didn’t need me anymore, so I sought
someone I might have more in common with, spotting

an old friend, an artist who was ducking me, ducking
everyone, or perhaps seeing only what she could see
looking down as she stitched a tapestry, as if she’d ever.

I like the way you carried the old woman in your arms.
It was the right thing to do, the only thing. In your
Milky Way mind, dense with orbiting spheres and stars,

you didn’t try to translate her fallen body into language
but simply, gently, lifted her, just as zoo gorillas
have done several times lately, when a curious child

drops in. With grim nobility they raise the child,
their gentleness unhinged by onlookers’ screams.
Woe can begin when the world responds.


Charlene Fix, mother of three, grandmother of two, Emeritus English Professor at Columbus College of Art & Design, has four collections of poems: Taking a Walk in My Animal Hat (Bottom Dog), Frankenstein’s Flowers (CW Books), Flowering Bruno: a Dography (XOXOX Press), and Jewgirl (forthcoming, Broadstone Books, fall 2023) as well as a prose homage Harpo Marx as Trickster (McFarland). Charlene co-coordinates Hospital Poets at the Ohio State University Medical Center, is an activist for social justice, and has a website:

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