It is on a shy street, with narrow, tall,
Windows. It is easy to overlook. Inside, the
Apothecary moves slowly, deliberately.
Behind the counter, he attends to important
Preparations, those that bring sleep or changes or
Release from pain. He is why the people come here.
No one wants the old-fashioned wares stocked on
Shelves lining the narrow room. People
Stopped using talcum. No one remembers horehound.
A cat sleeps just inside one tall
Window, a white fluffy being, named in Persian.
The shop smells of sweet and bitter, and of
Sun on old wood and metal. The chemist
Measures esoteric amounts. Grams, drams,
Fluidounces. Just enough. Careful, not fast.
Often, a customer opens the door between
Windows, with some urgent desire, and discovers
There is no rushing the chemist. Somewhere,
In a nicer part of town, there is a drugstore
He will hasten to, with twenty colored condoms,
With ranks of batteries to bring dead devices
Whirring back to life. Pantyhose. Cookies.
The hurried man will leave with everything
He's sure he needs.
Back on the shy street, night has fallen.
The chemist, moving slowly, pulls shades inside the
Windows. Fastens a metal gate over the door,
Dims the light over the castor oil and morphia.
Gathers the daughter of Persia into his arms,
Climbs the tall, steep stairs.
She calls him The Doctor. He calls her The
When they speak of each other, which isn't often.
She is old and fat with bad knees, which three
Things seem to go together, like butter and syrup
Melting on warm waffles, which she is very like.
She doesn't go out often. She has dinner for
The Doctor, a stew of some kind.
She makes the stew without measuring the pepper.
After, he sits in a pool of light with the
She lies on a sagging sofa, its shape like that of
Her body. Their Persian child sheds where she
Chooses. The Missus falls asleep, each
Breath and beat of blood
Like every other this dark century, ebbing.
At the proper time, The Doctor wakes her.
Together they remove the crocheted wedding-present
Bedspread, yellowed and heavy in its age.
He kisses her thin white hair, the generous lids
Over dark tired eyes. He gives her the liquid
Carefully measured downstairs.
They are unremarked, miraculous,
essential. They sleep.
Riordan, March 12, 1999.