Listening RoomThe Poet Speaks




The last time Nate came in
he smelled like Grace did when
she worked door-to-door
for Avon. He had the one
pierced earring in, his beard
was trimmed, he had the cane
with a devil’s head, the one
Grace had used to clobber him
the night she stroked. The last time
Nate came in, the housing cops
had been–they took his two
big dogs. And then he was
alone. No matter what he did
the kids would bust his locks
and trash the place.

Nate found a woman half his age
or she found him. He wound up
in Baltimore, drunk, without
his bank account and by himself.
When he made it home
both guns were gone. Then Nate
was put in jail for D & D
a time or two. At the end
they phoned me from the morgue–
in his pockets the boys
found an old appointment card
and Nate’s
Certificate of Satisfactory Service,
nothing else. They asked
if I would sign him out
and save the boys a trip?
I said, sure, Let’s give the man
a heart attack
. Then I thought
of Grace’s stroke, only I
didn’t say a word about Grace,
just, Boys, the cause of death
was complications

Poet’s Commentary:

“This is a poem that speaks for itself about the complications of being human, really, and being involved with other people.”

*Reproduced with the permission of Jack Coulehan and The American Medical Association: The Journal of the American Medical Association, July 21, 1993, 270(3): 293, Copyright 1993; and with special permission of Nightshade Press: First Photographs of Heaven, 1994.

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