by M. Brett Gaffney

Waverly Hills Sanatorium’s Children’s Pavilion served as a sort of orphanage for those whose parents had contracted tuberculosis, while the main hospital’s fifth floor (with roof access) was reserved to treat patients too young to be placed in a ward.

Old swing set rusting on the roof,
sun bearing down on tiny backs,
casting shadows beneath monkey bars.

A sick kid plays with one who belongs
to another patient, one of those children
who is still healthy, but without a father
to take her home, kids like Rosaline,

whose mother rests downstairs
in the solarium, soaking up the afternoon
like a moth, wings spread wide to capture
as much warmth as she can before flight.

When nurses aren’t looking, the kids kiss,
hold hands, trade secrets. They dance
like they’ve seen the nurses do
when the radio plays after dinner,
their feet in a hurry to grow up.

Timmy tells Rosaline she can have his ball
when he’s gone.

She asks where he’ll go.


You’re writing a story about your youth. What’s your first line?

Seventeen is not too young to be on your own. If you have something, like a voice. And luck.
Friends said you had, in a way, already left me.