The fluorescent-lighted complex
Smelled of stale urine
And cafeteria food
I could hear TVs
And groans
An occasional cough or holler
The stacking of trays and bowls
The low hum of lights and air conditioners
A few radios
Wide-eyed, we gawked at their bent
And wrinkled forms
So alien to our youth
As we marched, as directed
Front and center
Into the recreation room
We formed rows
In front of their big tube TV
Someone had to switch off 
Regis and Kathie Lee
And we sang:
“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else but Me”
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” 
Some of the silver-crowned folk
Clapped hands 
Patted thighs
Others sat silent
Eerily silent
One lady cried
Then, they had us sing through the hallways
And as we passed by
Residents tracked us with gray, sunken eyes
I remember a man 
With grey, matted hair
And bib denim overalls –
He kept patting a chair
“Sit a spell,” was his invitation
And I wished to fulfill his request
But my teacher patted my head
Pushed me along and said –
“We can’t stay here.”

I knew the old man held
A treasure trove of stories

And I had youthful, rosy cheeks
And an inclined ear
There was a silent longing between us
Stretching across the abyss –
They bussed us back over
To the fluorescent-lighted complex
Of youth
It smelled of sweaty children
And cafeteria food
Full of high-pitched squeals
And classroom bells
It was back to our regular programming

Someone switched off
“The Polka Dot Door”
And the teacher
Stood in front of the television cart
And began her lesson

But I was thinking of the old man
Across the chasm 

Both of us behind
Thick, cement-block walks