Leslie Gerber

The Hospital for Permanent Adults

This is where we stay,
one to a room.
We always piss in the toilets.
We never get drunk even when there’s wine.

Running is not permitted
but that’s OK. Most of us can’t run.
We lurch, hobble, limp.
Wheelchairs are available.

Breakfast is served at 5 a.m.
so most of us get our own.
It’s usually just gruel.
Seldom eggs, never bacon.

During the day they play the kind of music
we used to hear in department stores.
At night they show us movies
like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Groundhog Day.”
I keep asking for “The Exterminating Angel”
but it’s not available.

God speaks to us occasionally.
We don’t understand what She has to say
and we never ask each other.
This place seems like an inappropriate reward
for a life as well-lived as mine
but that’s just my opinion.

I’d expect that at least
we’d be encouraged to mingle
but someone’s always frowning.

There aren’t any flowers in here,
even on my sheets.
The walls are all pastel colors.
My bed is so hard
I usually wind up with a backache.
My bright Guatemalan clothing
I loved to wear
has all vanished.

Last week I took a walk into town.
After all, we’re not prisoners.
But when I got there
everything was so strange.
Nobody wanted to give me directions
and the noise was disturbing.
I didn’t want to buy anything
even if I’d had any money
because I would have had to carry it back.

So I returned.
A woman greeted me at the door.
“I wondered where you were,” she said,
as she gave me a permitted kiss.


Leslie Gerber was born in Brooklyn in 1943. Attended Brooklyn College & graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing, but went into the classical record business, running a mail order company for 39 years. He began writing poetry in his mid-50s and has since studied briefly with Sharon Olds and Billy Collins. He is now semi-retired, writes program notes and music reviews along with poetry, and publishes classical CDs as Parnassus Records. He lives in Woodstock with his wife Tara McCarthy and his dog Winnie.