Wednesday Jun 19

Hoppenthaler Year5b I’m way past my deadline as I write this, seated at the breakfast nook of my in-laws’ new home in Melbourne, FL. The pool glistens just outside the window, vibrant blue in the afternoon sun. Melbourne has been a part of my physical and emotional landscape for over two decades. My mom and dad had planned to retire here, but my father’s early death from a heart attack changed the plan: my mom moved down alone, bought a condo in Indian Harbour Beach, and enjoyed a handful of good years here before a stroke took her back to New York, where she lives out her days—deeply inside the fog of dementia—in a nursing home perched above the Hudson River. After her stroke, I hurriedly flew down here to see what could be done, and I spent days driving back and forth from her condo to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne.

If you have followed the journey that is A Poetry Congeries over the years, you know that this task, putting together the August highlights edition, is my least favorite obligation as an editor for CP. I hate choosing since all of the work I chose to feature in the Congeries has engaged and moved me or I would not have featured it in the first place. I balk at accomplishing the task; it’s something I put off until the last minute.

However, it’s not sloth or unprofessionalism that caused me to miss my deadline. I’m a pretty professional guy. Rather, just as our summer vacation was about to hit high gear, my stepson, Danny, awoke at 2:30 with a horrible headache. He’s a tough kid; he has a high pain threshold. This was troubling. More troubling still was the fact that he also had a fever. First thought when this combination hits? Most parents know: potential meningitis. We rushed Danny to the nearest emergency room. After a battery of tests, culminating in a spinal tap, our fears were confirmed. Meningitis it was. The doctors at Viera Hospital were awesome, and they assured us that they were fairly certain it was not the deadly variety, bacterial meningitis. Since Viera does not admit children, he was transferred to a hospital I had come to know too well: Holmes.

Danny and Christy left in an ambulance, and I drove the family Subaru across town and pulled into the familiar parking deck outside Holmes. Little had changed in 15 years. I felt a little overwhelmed with this confluence, these two anxiety-filled rivers of emotion coming together. I sat in the car awhile and got my head together. Then I walked into the lobby, the past and future merged as I stepped into the elevator, going up.

I’ve chosen the work of these poets to represent the 2015-2016 run of A Poetry Congeries. As always, my method was to read through all of the work and select the work that most speaks to me as I do so. On any other day, the choices might be different. Why these particular sets of poetry by these particular poets came to the front today, I can’t say. It’s not important. In the end, poetry is prayer. I really believe that. I’m not a religious guy, but I believe in prayer, which at its essence is song, is lyric, is story, is supplication.
As I write this, there’s the rumble of Florida thunder signaling that a typical summer afternoon shower is not far off. Danny seems well on the road to recovery, playing with a new video game in the bedroom, his headache now only a two out of ten. I have found these poems useful today, these prayers. I offer them up to you.