A Badge of Identity

At the hospital I am a stranger now
more patient than physician.
When I come there for a lecture, for example,
so as to maintain my license
to get in the credits required,
and the hours,
so that they. the powers that be, won’t take it away,
although people nod to me, and say
Hello, how are you doing, how do you take
up your time in retirement? And I answer
them in kind, because they’ll, all too soon, be in the same position,
I tend, these days,
to sit further back in the room, to perhaps,
not be so intrusive; And although, I think
I listen more carefully than I had before,
when I always had something else that had to be done,
there is, more and more often, a kind
of wall between me and the subject,
between me and the other people in the room;
And I think, I must be sure to keep my badge,
to display the identification they gave me,
that declares that I’m still on the staff, that even though I am emeritus,
they have not yet confiscated my key to the lounge,
or to the “executive washroom”, because, eventually,
oh I’m sure it will happen, someone,
a guard perhaps, or some new member of the administration,
will stop me as I wander
from place to place in some corridor,
and will say, What are you doing here,
or, Can I help, you look lost,
and I’ll think, yes, that’s what I am,
a mechanical, limbo-inhabiting automaton that’s lost its bearings,
and then I’ll think, as I now wonder, What am I doing here anyway?