Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So This Is It Elmer


Drawers full of lotto tickets
old photos and tee shirts
you cut the Vs in
letters to vendors in Houston
who promised investments that paid off
and a watch that got lost.
What I think about most Elmer
are all the conversations, the hours
talking on the phone
or sitting across from your wheelchair
and not understanding
your garbled bubbly words.
I tried not to be impatient when I
couldn’t get it, no matter how hard you tried.
Sometimes I said I have to go
and I had nowhere to go.
On good days when I caught
you right after the meds kicked in
you’d be so lucid, so opinionated.
No end to the information you read.
Tibet, the Indians or the track.
When you were a Merchant Marine in the Philippines at sixteen.
When you put a bowl on your head for a haircut.
When we played dominoes outside with Jim
and Lorraine until it rained.
You wore a bib to catch the drool.
Deadly serious. you knew your moves.
Tongue tucked to the side of your left cheek.
Your big hands danced slowly on the blocks and Jim
at 92 added the whole board while I caught my breath.
You turned into an elf that day, got on the elevator
right in front of us and disappeared.
Lorraine said it was sweet to see you carry on.
You reappeared in the hallway and took
us to the electric piano where you played broken tunes.
Lorraine played next to you and you
banged some hot Hoagy and Stachmo
for the whole damned world to hear.


Tonight you lie in a coma
They say you can hear
that your pulse is low
that you’ll be gone tomorrow.
I talk on the phone with Debbie the nurse.
I’m in Florida I say.
I’ll have to be frank she says.

Here in Florida the moon’s a sliver first quarter
and Orion appears in red clouds.
Tonight your daughter arrived,
the one with red hair the nurse says.
Tomorrow the daughter who’s a nurse will come.
They are your children
and so am I.

Tonight Father Elmer
my crazy wild man
my insatiable clown
my streetwise intellectual
lost in a dopamine nightmare
that freezes thought and voice.
My father, Elmer-you are dying
and again I feel if only
I had enough cash-enough
flash-enough of something
to make your life easier
to relieve your pain.

Oh how you did go on
trying to rock the pain away
rocking in bed, rocking in your wheelchair
rocking on the john,
trying to rock it all out.
How lost I feel knowing
I won’t talk to you again.

Elmer, you’re the last bet at OTB
the last great drum in the night
the last bang on the table
the last squint in the face
the million dollar ticket.

Elmer, where ever the hell you’re off to
this time, we’ll miss you.
From here in Florida
to Norton, Mass and Jamestown, New York
the money’s at the window.
Your horse is at the gate.


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