Saturday, September 10, 2016

Poems I Admire #20

The Helpful Man
Susan Rooke

One spring day he mounted your porch steps,
rang your doorbell, and as I surmise it,
backed down a step or two to seem less
threatening. We know he pointed out

the tree on your front lawn that had fallen
to its side, a tumble of gaunt ruin. Much
the way you would have appeared to the man
through the grimed mesh of your screen door.

So helpful, the man was, offering to cut the old
tree up and haul it off, a job he would accomplish
easily, for a modest sum. You would pay him half
at once, he explained, the other half the next day

when he came back to remove the tree. So very
helpful was the man that you agreed, writing
him a check, filling in the lines by long habit.
As a young woman you had to been a bank teller.

In age, you had forgotten how to use a telephone,
when to bathe and eat, forgotten you had owned
a car once the keys were taken from your purse.
But you remembered how to write a check.

As promised, the helpful man returned the next day,
not the sort to shirk his word. From within
the muddy shallows of your eyes you gazed
at him as he pointed out the fallen tree

on your front lawn, explained his helpful plan
to cut it up and haul it off if you would pay him
half that day. And so you did, and did, and did –
for days you did, the tree untouched – until

one of your sons caught the man in the act of being
helpful, which helped us know what we must do
with you, your house, and all your things, fallen:
first the cutting, and then the hauling off.

First appeared in Naugatuck RiverReview

Susan Rooke’s poems have appeared in such print and online publications as San Pedro River Review, Concho River Review, Texas Poetry Calendar, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Melancholy Hyperbole, Kentucky Review, A Year of Being Here, Folio, Naugatuck River Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and the anthologies Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems (Dos Gatos Press 2016), Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems (ed. Jonas Zdanys, Lamar University Press 2015) and Grit, Gravity and Grace: New Poems about Medicine and Healthcare (ed. Rhonda L. Soricelli, M.D. and Jack Coulehan, M.D., M.P.H.; College of Physicians of Philadelphia 2015). She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize, once for Best of the Net, and for the 2016 Dwarf Stars Award. She lives in the country outside of Thorndale, Texas. Find out more (and read her blog) at

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