Tarnished Crown by Margo Dean

In the final months, the person who inhabited
my father’s body was a sweet man –
a mathematician unable to calculate
the number of nickels in a dollar,
a gentle stranger who knew my name.

“I’m puzzled, Marg. What is this place?”
“You’ve had a stroke, Dad, and you are recovering.
This place is five miles from where we live, and you
will be home in about three weeks, maybe four.”

“Right,” smiled the man in the wheelchair.
“But Marg, have you noticed,” he whispered,
“there are a lot of old people here –
and really, they are so very unhappy.
While I’m here I will try to cheer them up.”

His small bag packed now
with things he no longer needs,
I turn to see a nurse at the door.
“I’ll miss your father, dear—
We’ll all miss His Majesty.”

Though we have spoken many times,
I’ve never heard her name for him.
Seeing my puzzlement she laughs.
“Your father had such courtly manners
and sat so straight in his wheelchair

he looked like the lord of the manor –
so one day I called him “Your Majesty.”
He looked up and said, “If I am a king,
I’m afraid my crown is rather tarnished.”

Embracing the nurse, I take the bag
and walk slowly down a long corridor,
greeting very old people, his befuddled subjects,
and blessing the walls of his final kingdom.

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