By Myrna Stone
The Social Worker’s Advice

Try biting your tongue, then ask for and explore
his scrambled view, however odd or obstinate,
with his relief in mind. Dredge up his stores
of nerve and wit. Be clever, be his advocate,

and resist, for God’s sake, setting him straight,
for facts don’t matter here, or fools, my friend.
If words seem ineffective, use some bait
instead: a nod, a laugh, a pat. He’ll bend

if he’s stubborn, warm if he’s cold. . . . So fold
his hand in yours, for you’re his flesh, pilgrim,
and he ought to feel it. And though you’re old
and tired and taxed by your own set of whims

and ills, so what? So what if he forgets
like a child of five? There’s love, and debts.

- From In the Present Tense: Portraits of My Father