Mikey Sivak

Ode to a certain version of a man

I was in your room when you died.

I saw your life dissolve, at last,
like last-flat Alka-Seltzer
in the tap water glass by
the bourbon at the bedside.

Put the false teeth
in his sweatpants pocket.
They’ll need those at
the parlor.

The anti-climax of
gurney wheels over a threshold
you laid yourself fifty years back,
after the war, to carry the missus across,
from boards reclaimed from a pile behind where
they tore apart a switch house by tracks of
the decommissioned Erie Line.

Watch his head at the jamb.
Pull that sheet up there.

Old man neighbor in his slippers
and bathrobe across the road with his old dog
on its leash, I knew them like icons once, named like
the tree in the side-yard, through childhood picnics
and funerals though both their names escape me
now and for good. They are gone.

That dog has to have been dead fifteen years now.
I heard the old man died a couple years back.
His house belongs to young people now.
Yours too.

“The neighborhood’s flipped,” second-cousin John said when
I saw him at the gas station some time or other.
“Like it was when we were kids, again. Me and your aunts.
Families instead’a old folks. The old ones all dead now.
Kids runnin runnin everywhere. Like how it use’ta be.”

I almost handed them your glasses.
I wondered if the hearing aid in your
ear was on or off. The ambulance
rolled off in Tuesday morning mist,
slow and sirenless and then I was all alone.
Standing on the porch like I was waiting
for something. House sparrows in good spirits
in the crimson maple’s branches.

I went inside and sat in your chair,
stared at the off TV. Thought of you
sitting there ten-thousand nights,
passed out from booze & work & basking
in microwaves & black & white TV light.

You’re younger. Brown haired
(like I never saw you while I breathed),
slimmer, no gut, your teeth.

You look like me. Like in the Super-8 movies
I found later and projected on the basement wall
sitting like a child on a folding chair among XMAS
boxes, tinsel garland dusty the color of Greek bronze
wrapped round my throat like a Christmas noose,
chain smoking like you.

And on the wall you’re all gold-yellow aflame
and you’re dancing with your sisters and nieces,
and the kids are flying everywhere in little blurs, and there
is my mother maybe only 8 years old, and there is everyone
I’ve since seen laying down in open coffins and some I carried
on my shoulder to their graves, but it’s still the 1960s and they’re
all alive then and I am not. There is no sound.

I still remember the last TV set,
the one from the 60s.

Who was it? Steve Allen,
playing piano on The Tonight Show
while Jack Kerouac read poems
transmitted across the airwaves
to all America?

The beagle beside you, the TV tray dishes,
VFW and USW dues forms on your crotch.
The plastic Scotch bottle and cigarettes.
Wife and daughters asleep in their rooms.

Outside the maple was shorter then.
Nightly its leaves flickered with white TV light
blasting radiation from the windows.
All of it cancerous.

There were nights you beat your daughters while drunk
and dragged them by the hair down the stairs once or twice
or more so when they reached teenaged they left with poor
boys or were knocked-up by married men.

At the funeral they clutched each other confused
in their anger and sadness.
I just missed you. You’d never been shitty to me.
But by then you had softened. My own anger belonging
to others still alive.

I took a carton of smokes I found on your dresser.
Took a blazer from your closet, an old fishing reel
from the basement and a bottle of old cheap cologne.

At the funeral I cursed those who cursed you.
Left out the back alone in your blazer and after shave.
I smoking the last of your smokes & went to the pier where
as a boy you taught me to fish.

I spent the afternoon casting
for stripers but caught only one small
shad. It dangled silver and ineffectual
from the line until I removed the hook,
felt its cold beating heart and pulsing gills
in the palm of my wet bare hand.

Back in the water it waited
momentarily before slicing off
through the effluence, tree limbs
littered with lost bobbers and lures,
none of them yours or mine.

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The views and opinions expressed throughout belong to the individual artists and may or may not coincide with those of the other artists (or editors) represented within the magazine. Hobo Camp Review supports a free-for-all atmosphere of artistic expression, so enjoy the poetry, fiction, opinions, and artwork within, read with an open mind, and comment wisely. Thanks for stopping by the Camp!