Nicholas Racheotes


(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

“Why do you call it a stick and not a cane?” she asked, “You know that there is a white cane awareness day every October.”

What rod and what staff is there to offer comfort?

The long white stick with its dog-dazzling red tip arcs over the walk ways, strikes the fire plug, jumps curbstones, lodges in the cracks and threatens to drop into the dark knowable unknown.

There is no crook to hook over a shoulder,

No hard wood to use on the straying sheep or the undisciplined ram,

No ornate episcopal crosier to awe the congregants.

The riddle of the Sphynx has already been solved,

Oedipus’s mother crawled among the chickens in the yard in the morning,

We, as youths, ran on both flying legs through a thousand noon times,

Then, all too soon, shuffled through remaining twilights canes in hand,

Until life played its cruelest joke:

The running of the elders to supper at the nursing home,

Each back on four legs,

on the four legs of their Zimmer frame.

Why is it a walker?

For the same reason it’s a stick and not a cane,

Because the real walker bends into her frame,

Plows aside the years,

Takes her place at the communal table with her familiars;

Because the wielder of the stick conducts the environment,

As though it were a symphony overflowing with meaningful sounds,

With warnings and enticements,

Until the door to be opened is reached.

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(listen to the poem, read by Diane R. Wiener)

If I had words, you wouldn’t have to speak for me.

If I had choices, you wouldn’t have to make them for me.

If I were all the same, you would be able to solve me.

The floor in South Station is sidewalk cold, but I’m not going anywhere.

The hole in my pocket keeps widening around the crumpled bills I’m fisting.

If you knew how I got here, you could explain me.

If we could share a day, what name would you put to me.

Our worlds can never collide because we’re skilled in evasive action.

Am I really less than nothing, then

If I have to leave it at this, please,

Call me by no name.

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About the Author

Nicholas Stanley Racheotes (Nick) is Emeritus Professor of History from Framingham State University and a Research Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard. He is currently at work on a history of the relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Serfdom when he’s not indulging in a passion for writing poetry. Nick and wife, Pat, are life-long Bostonians, high school classmates, and regulars at the beaches of Harwich, Cape Cod during the summer months.