He unfolds lizard hands
ready to speak but decides
to sink inside himself,
eyelids blinking and closing,
a low rumble shaking rubber chins,
head stripped slick of hair
body of meanness and muscle,
seeming smaller moment by moment
in his hospital gown.
Man amphibian, eyes enlarged
by trifocals in a icy room,
he laments what he could grasp
only a few summers ago:
rakes and hoes, golf clubs, rod and reel,
soup ladles, pinochle cards.
Pacifying him with what he pacified me,
I promise I’ll plant tomatoes and peppers,
we’ll deep fry our catch, he can putt at least.
Dammit, he rages, not ready to die yet!
he wants to polka and fox trot with mother,
eat Easter sausage and hard boiled eggs,
sip cheap table wine, watch baseball games on TV.
I promise him we’ll do all these things
and he belches garlic and complains
of bad dinner and bed pans.
I try to get to the lines about forgiveness,
about wrenched backs and seventy hour weeks,
but talk instead about politics, profit margins,
new blood pressure medications, how I’m doing overall.
And then the old guy goes quiet on me,
his face lifting again to see something
I don’t know how to look for or wonder about.
I look instead at trees shaking hard side to side,
hearing only the rugged silence between us.
We’ve told enough lies for one day.