by Tracy Elin
Wayne had never thought to write a poem before. When the impulse struck him in his 77th year, he attributed it to the weakness of aging.
He’d raised three boys without ever writing a poem. He’d outlived his wife by 30 years, managing all the household chores, and never written a poem. He’d worked as a foreman at a mining pit, he’d run his own machine shop, and after the recession of the early ’90s, he’d kept the books for a number of small businesses, and in all that time, he’d never felt the need to put his thoughts into verse.
He’d probably read a poem, though he couldn’t recall a specific one. In the Bible, surely. And people said music lyrics were like poems, and he had always been a fan of the true music of the Appalachian region. He wasn’t likely to encounter a poem in his house; the books were mostly technical manuals from his working days, as well as a single shelfful of westerns he reread from time to time. His wife had read a number of books about glamorous people doing inappropriate things, and those were still around somewhere.
But that day when he noticed the scratch pad near the telephone, Wayne sat down and then tapped the pencil a few times before writing:
I think of those pillars of stone
in the American West (Arizona?)
and I guess in China too,
where over millions of years
(a long time regardless)
piles of sediment and
have washed away to leave
an unlikely shaft of basalt
(or whatever is hard enough to survive)
such is my memory
of one blow job fifty years ago.
The warm, unknown feeling.
The astonishment—such a nice gal—
and her eyes twinkling up at me.
When he finished, he understood why people did things like that. He felt like he was now resting on a final depth of regret—like some slow process in the back of his mind had finally reached its end. But he didn’t want the girl from the VNA to see, so he folded up the paper and put it in a drawer.