Thursday, September 3, 2009

poem of the day 09.03.09


i watched her breathing heavily
on her death bed that gave her bloody sores
on her back and legs
the bed i’d be given after it was all over
her voice gone, never to utter a word again
eyes forever shut to this world
but still that breathing, guttural, quick, hard
like she’d run a marathon
gambling with her god
and did she like to gamble?
remember the yellow calendars covered in lottery numbers.
remember the bookies stopping by for a beer.
in the bars she gave my brother and i
lance’s cheese crackers and flat coca-cola
a stack of quarters to play the video poker machine
the one that paid under the table
and if we hit we were paid off with packs of baseball cards
and milky ways in order to keep it quiet
but it all would be gone now, grandmother
hard breaths
salt in the beer
salt by your nightstand that played talk radio all night
salt in the cancer
salt on everything
and i decided right then and there
as you took those fast, fleeting breaths
not to cry at your funeral
thinking maybe you wouldn’t want it that way
because you were always a hard broad from pittsburgh
born to die there
and then i left you to drive three hours to akron
to see bob dylan
leaving like a rolling stone
saying it’s all over now, baby blue
a carton of cigarettes in the front seat between me and joel
and the counting crows in the tape deck
i had no clue then that i’d never hear you breath again
how can one gauge that?
and i didn’t cry grandmother, not then,
but i’ve done it so many times since
that i keep wondering when the well is going to dry
and you’re going to quit haunting each bar
i take my secret, heavy steps into, thinking the answers
are there, right on the next barstool, waiting.