There’s a counting,
is it a fortnight?
There’s a counting,
every other Mars.
But one is missed –
what is that,
a cycle of the Moon?
The sandy beaches,
of a moon of Jupiter,
an imagined place,
in the silence of a cave,
as if transported,
from place and time,
watching the Sun,
go in circles and circles,
as night approaches.
This poem is about an elderly person in a nursing home. The person is supposed to be visited by their family every other Tuesday, but their family missed the last visit.
In the poem, it is the fifth Tuesday. The person’s family came on the first Tuesday. They were supposed to come on the third Tuesday, but did not. Now it is the fifth Tuesday, which is the next scheduled visit day.
The poem starts with a question, There’s a counting, is it a fortnight? The elderly person is trying to think about how often their family visits. They wonder what a time period name for every other Tuesday might be. They have trouble counting the days, but think that it might be called a fortnight, which is fourteen days. They are somewhat upset and aren’t able to focus and know how many days it really is.
The elderly person continues to think about the time between visits. They describe “every other Tuesday” as “every other Mars.” Tuesday, in Spanish is called Martes, which is a reference to Mars. The idea of astronomy as a background idea continues in the poem.
They then describe the idea that one of the visits was missed (But one is missed). Again, they are having trouble counting and wonder if that is a month between visits (what is that, a cycle of the Moon?). This again is an astronomy idea in the background.
The poem then partially shifts perspectives. In the next stanza, there is a blurring of the point of view of the elderly person and that of their family.
The elderly person imagines their family being somewhere fun and far away (The sandy beaches, of a moon of Jupiter). Their thoughts are imaginary though (an imagined place). Their family is just out living their lives as normal. The place though, and this is a blending of the viewpoints, is one of forgetfulness. The elderly person imagines their family forgetting them, and, for the most part, at least at times, their family does.
The perspective then shifts back to the elderly person. They think of their reality as, “Alone, in the silence of a cave, of Pluto“. The person is alone, as in the sense that they have no company. They have no one to talk to (in the silence), and they feel hidden (of a cave). The place the person is at is described as being of Pluto. Pluto, at one time, was the farthest planet from the Sun. This describes the person’s separation from their family. Also, Pluto is no longer a planet. This idea describes the sense of demotion the person feels in their sense of abandonment. The detachment and separation the person feels is further described as if transported, from place and time.
The elderly person is in their room and they feel the days pass. This is described as “watching the Sun go in circles and circles“. The person has a sense that they will die soon (as night approaches). There’s a sense of dejection.
This poem, in some sense, is about neglect by apathy. The person’s family sees the elderly person as an obligation. They see them as something that takes up time. They feel the visits are a burden. This is demonstrated in part by the fact that the visits are scheduled and sparse.
The person’s family isn’t mean in a sense. They just feel detached from the elderly person. They don’t feel a strong connection. Seeing the person is almost viewed like completing community service to them.
The poem focuses on the perspective of the elderly person. There is the idea, that a missed visit is very important to them, but not important to their family.
Astronomy was used in the poem as a descriptive tool. The idea was to make the feelings of the person seem larger in a way.