Last Night With Mr. Graham
Old man uproots himself like an angry tree, limps across
The rusted railroad tracks in his back yard. I remember
Those great steel cars, those beasts that used to hurdle by.
Ah! He says, Such speed. There is no forgiveness, young lady,
Only need. Obey his gnarled hands waving---C’mon, girl, c’mon.
They flutter, two crushed leaves pressed with the memory
Of his dead wife’s honeyflesh. The thin blonde son dead at three.
There is no forgiveness possibly.
I am his nurse, solemn young friend, prescription angel,
Prostitute of dreams. Pour a rainbow of pills into his cupped
Claw. It shakes without meaning. Disease, I am fragile with love.
Old man, what the war gave you was a vegetable garden,
An apple tree by the tracks heavy with rotten hearts, wormy
With grief. What the war gave you was sixty-eight more years.
Should’ve been kissed, you say, by the same bullet spray
As old Fred Murray was kissed by in ‘43. Arm in a ditch, leg
In a tree. But it missed. You bring me into the bruised shadow
Of your wife’s face. The face you kissed and craved and slapped
Once fresh home from Germany, bloodghost drunk on war.
You’d never hit her before. In two years she was dead.
You were left with the peeling house, the empty oven,
White walls shocked blue by midnight TV.
Bedroom still ripe with her gardensmell, dresses dancing
In the closet with your proud fatigues.
At eight o’clock every night you say, Girl you best
Knock me out before you leave! Like a priest I press
A sacrament to your tongue, bless you with sleep.
I watch you fade and soften in the suppertime light.
You are not listening: the quilts stop shuddering.
Mr. Graham, I am here. Goodnight.
Copyright Alicia Fisher, 2011