Body Language

Alan Harris

after my father had his stroke
we never spoke again
but that didn’t stop us
from reading each other’s faces

recognizing the punctuated pauses
periods and question marks
etched in eyes, sighs and sad smiles

It took both hands to hold one of his
that first day in the hospital
as my eyes whispered how much I cared
and his smile replied, Thank you

but before I left his side that night
our sighs acknowledged
the painful truth
that despite how well
we finally understood each other
it was regrettably apparent
how little time we had left to talk

About the poet:

Alan Harris is a sixty-one-year-old hospice volunteer who helps patients write short stories, letters and poetry. “I’m what’s called a ‘Tuesday story’ writer, as in Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I’m called in when a hospice patient would like help writing a short memoir, letter or poem. It’s a fantastic experience to be the last person to listen to an important story straight from the source. And then I get to help mold it into a cherished, hard-copy family legacy.” Harris is working on his MSW degree at Wayne State University, Detroit.

About the poem:

“This poem is a cathartic recreation of the day I was summoned to the hospital to be with my father, right after a major stroke had stolen from him the ability to talk. Without words, we still engaged in the most important conversation we would ever have with each other.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

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10 thoughts on “Body Language”

  1. Your words speak eloquently of the sadness and joy at having this moment. I too had a last week in a hospital with my dad. Thanks, Alan.

  2. Ronna L. Edelstein

    Mr. Harris, your beautiful poem resonated with me. My dad and I spent his last week in silent communication–but we still found a way to express our love for each other. Having spent 29 years in the suburbs of Detroit as a teacher (I got my middle school endorsement at Wayne State), I feel a geographic connection with you. I used to faithfully read all of Mitch Albom’s columns, and I try to keep up with his books.

    Finally, that you are a hospice volunteer says so much about you and your heart of gold.

  3. Henry Schneiderman

    Mr Harris, you have captured something so perfectly, with a crystalline clarity. Clearly those for whom you speak in your Tuesday stories are doubly fortunate, for your own voice carries such power. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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