Three Poems by Patrick Pfister


Your motionless eyes stare

across the square

where crowds daily pass,

treating you like stone,

though children marvel,

fear, believe, adore you.

You, the result of vision,

see nothing, nothing at all.

Beyond the range

of your absent gaze

one person after another


while you remain

in your purpose,

never beyond your limit.

Never beyond.


I never imagined the sparkle,

let alone the splendor,

so I never considered coming.

Then I came and found not one

threshold man,

not one outside woman.

Not a single soul possessing nothing.

A city without a tin cup?

Nowhere do I see even one

sad cardboard sign,

and nowhere a ragged lump asleep

in a shadowed corner,

but I do see a great many shadows.


Bedridden, cadaverous, ninety-four-year-old patient dying to die. “Why so hard?” he asks his physician daughter. “Can’t you do something?” Sorry, she only heals. No other mode. So sweating beneath surgical mask and gloves, bent double beneath medical supplies, dragging potatoes, carrots, apples, water, I tramp plague-ravaged Barcelona. Last week, a tumultuous carnival pageant. Today, a void. I board a bus. Driver eyes me in rearview: his only fare. We pass lonely streets. I get off, pound pavement, perspire. Finally arrive, enter apartment. Caregiver and patient isolated at far end. I unload provisions, wash gloved hands, wipe down everything I touch. Leaving, I ring the bell three times. All clear, all clear. Lighter now, I hike homeward. Tinkle, tinkle, sounds my cell phone. A text from the caregiver, a photo out of quarantine. Skeletal patient in bed. Face like parchment. Smile still sweet.