Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Last Time I Saw Mom Alive

A Mexican musician
Held his high tenor
An impossibly long time
As we got drunk
On margaritas and beer.

Later,
My brother-in-law and I danced
Under his tall trees' green canopy,
Fluorescent against the night's soft sky.

The music?
I'm thinking Commodores:
"Brick House."

And us?
We laughed, muttered,
Staggered in circles,
Tried on faces and voices,
All across the wide backyard.

My mom was
In a suburban rest home
Not far away,

Up on the top floor
In a sheltered wing
Called Comfort Cove.

The next day,
Before the long ride home,
I paid her a final call.

There was only TV noise
In the dayroom,
And residents still as statues.

Mom was lying curled up,
On top a fake leather sofa—
Tiny,
Like a child
Wearing clothes that were too big.

I sat on the floor
And took her hand.
She opened bright, blue,
Watering eyes,
Smiled into mine,
And whispered softly,
“I love you,
“I love you,"

“I love you,”
Over and over
And over again.

Punching Cardboard

Trying to feel more at ease
In this wet and cold climate,
And not give in
To the twinges of pain in my lower back,
I decide to invest Saturday’s chores with
More than my usual panache.

I stride widely
Down backyard’s gravelly path
To the soggy place
Where I punch
The yielding cardboard
Of an Amazon box
Into a more compact shape
For the recycling bin.

Aware of the neighbor's possible gaze,
I ignore the rain
Sluicing down my forehead,
Keep my gut sucked in,
And pivot

With animal, yogic grace:
Bound back
Through iron and rough wood gate,
Up pantry steps,
To the kitchen,
Below the sink,

Ready to manfully dispatch,
Next,
The food scrap waste.

To see a video reenactment of these events, check this out.

Like a Silver-Plated Pistol

As a consequence of
A troublesome bout of
Lower back pain—
Yet another intimation of mortality—
I’ve recently begun imagining myself,
And it’s gotten so it’s hardly a stretch,
Retired, you know.

Knees creaking up some cobblestoned street,
In a small
—For some reason—
Mexican city.
Relying on a
Pimped-out ebony cane
To navigate stylishly,
Though carefully,
Into the late gentle night—

[Hand clap]
The revery is broken--
A bottle breaks--
Angry shouts—
Clich├ęs? Yes—but still I stop,
My native curiosity
Replaced by caution,
You might even call it fear…

Now I have always,
Although very occasionally,
Thought of my dying
As the result of some
Terminal--obviously--
Albeit short-lived
Bodily malfunction.
An accident? Act of God? Nah, hunh-unh--
Never seriously considered...
New thought, though:

What if,
In the lacuna between
Spanish streetlights,
Two local toughs suddenly
Stand at my shoulder
Full of evil intent?
And what if—
All meaningful goodbyes, dear God,
Dispensed with—
My life ends here?

It’s a thought.

Scuffle,
Slip on a stone,
One grabs my cane,
The other tears at my wallet,
And I look up into the muzzle
Of a silver-plated gun--

What happens next,
We’re not meant to imagine.
[Fingersnap] Bang.
Just like that—
[Fingersnap] Bang.
It’s all over...

But just as this senseless action is joined
Between trigger and bullet,
What if this malo hombre
Looks down into these eyes
That are staring at Death,
And sees there--instead of fear--
He sees humor--

Well, that almost
Goes without saying,
In this post-whatever world, but--
Maybe even warmth?
Or understanding?
If that's possible.

Forgiveness, of course,
Is not ours to give, and
I can't really know
Or even predict
My response.

So instead of being cute,
Tempting fate, or the devil,
I'll just hope
That if it comes to that,
It will all be over quickly,
And I won't have begged,
Or shat in my pants.


That Ought To See Us Out

“That oughta see us out, ”
Is what my wife’s folks
Used to say,
After they’d retired,
Whenever they’d buy
A moderately big-ticket item.

“That oughta see us out—“

Imagine saying that.

How close you would have to feel
To your own mortality
To compare it to
That of a toaster,
Or even a refrigerator.

I imagine it could well be true,
In my case, at least,
That any number of
Mundane possessions
Will see me out.

But I really don’t like to think about
Which ones.