Another Bad Halloween
Fred must explain Halloween to Opal
when he gets home from the poker game.
He just had another bad Halloween.
He thinks Opal doesn't know but Ethel
from across the street called Opal
and told her the neighbors all know.
Some even have it on their iPhones.
Granny from across the alley
has it on hers and she can hardly
use it to call her daughter.
Last year Opal told Fred don't drink
Jack Daniels straight again.
It’s embarrassing, she says, to know.
all the neighbors have video of Fred
in his Trump wig and Hillary pantsuit
going door-to-door on Halloween
wearing a sandwich-board that says
Vote For Fred Instead.
They’re in the kitchen,
drinking coffee, the kids,
in their fifties now,
figuring out what to do
about Dad who’s
in the parlor listening,
counting all the marbles
they think he’s lost.
The six of them flew in
to bury mother.
They won’t go back
until they figure out
what to do about Dad.
At the funeral they saw
Father Kelly kiss Dad’s
wedding ring, the one
he’s worn for 60 years.
Father Kelly bowed
over the wheelchair
as if Dad were pope
and told him he’d be over
Tuesday night as usual
for checkers and a beer.
Best two out of three
goes to heaven first.
Dancing in the Candy Aisle at 6 a.m.
A boy, maybe 5, dancing
in the candy aisle of a megastore
at 6 a.m., a month before Halloween
is overjoyed by the harvest
on every shelf, his caramel skin
aglow, his hair a perfect 'fro,
his black t-shirt and black jeans
the right outfit for his performance.
And although he has the moves
he’s more a cub scout than
another Michael Jackson.
He has the aisle to himself
except for me and my cart
at one end and a clerk
with a box at the other
both of us stunned to see
a boy with no arms dancing
in the candy aisle till mother
comes and scoops him up,
plops him in her empty cart.
Both laugh and disappear.
Lunch with a Good Ol’ Boy Cancelled
I should have said yes,
meet you anywhere you want
for lunch, even that greasy spoon
with the lousy chili and corn dogs.
Every five years or so we meet
to recall the bad old days
and you always tell me that’s the way
they make chili and corn dogs
at home in the hills of Arkansas
and I always ask about the stills
and you tell me no more stills
since the repeal of Prohibition.
They never saw a salad in that place
I’m certain, but who cares.
I should have said yes,
meet you anywhere you want.
I promise you I'll go there today
and order chili and a corn dog
once I get back from the cemetery.
Apostrophe in Eternity
A coffin’s not so bad, the old monk told me,
the two of us standing there, a foot or two
from the monk who had died the day before
and was lying now in a pine casket.
He was younger, only 83, the old monk said,
and healthy, too, and yet he got there
before I did, a lucky soul if you believe
that life's an apostrophe in eternity
standing in momentarily
for Who we’re all dying to meet.
If we didn’t believe that, the old monk said,
neither of us would have come here.
He was an engineer, like you, for years
and I would have been a forest ranger,
hard to believe two men like us would
spend our lives praying for hours a day
and making cheddar cheese in between.
I’ll give you some to take home to the family.
The cheese is worth the trip, he laughed.
We monks make the best of it
until the apostrophe disappears.