Grocery Boy

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Photo by Alfred on Unsplash

It’s been ten years since the accident, and now
he’s a grocery boy in an older man’s body,
still dreaming—like any twenty-year-old
before a major head injury would—
of the beautiful women yet to come.
And come they do—to the stocked shelves,
pushing their carts like baby carriages,
strolling the aisles of their good lives.

No stroll for him though—his body
moves, but stiffly, accommodating
his intentions as best it can, as if he
were remotely controlling it for the
first time. But it’s his limbs seizing
the courage to keep moving
that mercifully fires his separate parts
into agreement. Nothing remote about that.

He carries the heavy bags out to the large
shining cars. It’s hard for him to speak
a sentence and be understood, but he tries
anyway: each word fought for, dragged
from the bottom of the laryngeal sea,
while his listeners fish for patience,
a few turning away with quick thanks and
driving off, their own tongues floundering.

He opens his shirt collar: Jesus hangs
from the chain around his neck—
the reason he’s still here, he says, and why
every day is “awesome”—because blue
sky, black sky, brazen eye of summer,
that’s the view the living have, and snow,
rain, wind are all two thumbs up
on the scale of tingling his skin.

With the light of the world glinting
in his eyes and the bleached sands of
his hair, shoring him up against the
cruel twist of the years, he writes down
his number, wants to talk longer, later.
Let the beat go on for the heart
that insists dreams are meant to be
reached for, not shelved.

This poem first appeared in the anthology “Best of Kindness 2017” by the Origami Poems Project. My thanks to judge Mary Ann Mayer and editors Jan and Kevin Keough for its inclusion, and to Kent at my local Safeway for its inspiration and for being such an inspiration generally!

 

 

A Kindness Bestowed

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Photo by SAMUEL HENRY on Unsplash

When Camel-heavy lungs finally shrank
my father’s world to a bed by the window,
on sunny winter days his bed
became a beach where he lay,
pajama top unbuttoned, hairless chest
exposed, the whooshing surf
of the oxygen tank now pleasing.

And the sun, unmitigated by a pane of glass
or the pain of a rationed breath,
was kindness itself, bestowing the
warmth of many hands it seemed,
keeping the dying fire inside aglow
long after it reached the end
of his square footage of sky.

Today’s sunshine reminded me of this poem, first published in “Best of Kindness 2017” by the Origami Poems Project. My father never lived to see this poem but he told me that the best last days of his life were as I’ve attempted to describe.

Morning Blessing

Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

One large glass of water daily
before the endless cups of green tea,

a glass that stood wrapped
a long time in my father’s two hands,

head bowed to it, eyes closed
to the rest of us at the table.

I didn’t know what he thought
or felt or said to himself right then

nor how thirsty I was
for a silence so meant

until I felt it filling me too,
slaking the cracked creekbed

of rushed and ordinary days.
Fifty-five years old and home for a visit,

back in the cradle
of his slow kind hands.

This poem won first place in Pandora’s Collective 2012 contest and is included in my new chapbook “Irresistible”. Only two weeks left to reserve a copy here!