How many canes can one observe without finally exploding?
He walks with a cane and smells like a mouse.
He has food caked on his sleeves.
There are stains on his cuffs. He smells of urine and old socks.
His wife attacks him; she berates him.
The old man will die of emphysema.
My mother promised to leave. “Why would you go to his funeral?”
She didn’t want a priest or a minister, she wanted show girls and fireworks.
She wanted to humiliate him. She ended up disgracing herself.
She’s glad he’s dead. Glad he’s gone. “Hallelujah.”
He begs not be resuscitated, but she forgets.
He wants to die in peace, why not?
She is asked but is silent. The paramedics smash out his teeth
and jam a pipe down his throat. He lives for days.
He keeps a lock on the door of the den. He runs in there to hide.
She’d slap him in the face. She’d kick him. She’s a drunk.
She gulps a few glasses of white wine and wants to tell her tale.
It’s a story of abandonment, an empty nest. “Get out!”
She refuses to get his meds. She tells him to get them himself.
He can’t walk. He can’t drive. She is too busy: “I have a life, too!”
He is deaf but she accuses him of faking.
It is true that when we talk about money, his hearing comes back.
Suddenly, his hearing is perfect. When I mention money,
he understands the figures.
He smiles when he gets a bargain. Money talks.
When she complains, the batteries stop.
He can’t make them work. He turns them off.
He’s grown tired of listening.
Sixty-one years. That voice. The rage. The badgering. The nagging.
She wants him to wipe the shit off the toilet: “You clean it!”
Unhappiness is intolerable.
When does it turn to hate?
Why does it turn to hate?
She drinks white wine from a tumbler.
She calls her cousin in Kingston
and says she hopes he’ll soon die.
He is 67 but looks 80.
She wants some love before she dies.
She wants some male attention.
“I thought we were going out for dinner. I’ve been waiting.”
“You’re drunk. I can’t go out with you now.”
She can barely stand and stinks. She’s been drinking all day.
Booze makes her hate. It brings out the rage, the loathing.
She is ready to die to make a statement.
Oh, it boils over, like a chemical reaction: quick lime and water.
She overflows with self–hatred. It is volcanic.
My arrival sets the fuse. The hatred can’t be contained.
She belongs to the IRA. She is ready to die for a cause.
He sits on the floor in front of the heater giving instructions,
The body goes. He is cold.
When she says she has a friend who has offered to go down on her,
I take my cue. It is time. Where is the exit?
David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.