NORMAL IN WYOMING
from a letter to Jay
My doctor says I’m doing fine. He tells me everything
is normal. Honestly, I no longer know how to rattle him,
and it scares me. I miss the days when my physical
problems were unusual for my age. As you know,
I walked with a cane by the time I was forty-five.
Everyone knew it wasn’t normal. Everyone knew it
was the result of an injury. Now people just expect it.
Women look at me as if I’m a starter home they can’t
believe they once lived in. I miss my wife. My ex-wife.
My second ex-wife. But when I remember touching her
I imagine my now-hand on her then-body and I shudder.
I mean, just wait until you see the thing. My hand. Good god
and my nipples. Not that I’ll show you. But wow!
And they droop and kind of reach out, somehow eager
and worried at the same time. Like a tourist at Sea World
puckering for a kiss from a dolphin. My breasts, in general.
They’re breasts now. And I have throatum. A portmanteau
I made of “throat” and “scrotum.” Because that’s exactly
what it looks like. You know the thing. Like Ronald Reagan’s.
All the irony is gone from my hat. The On Golden Pond hat
I used to wear. I still wear it but now it’s just befitting.
Sometimes I think I’ll buy another, a different style,
but then I just think why bother. There’s no getting that back.
The last time I saw my doctor I told him. He was politely
trying to usher me out of his office. So I stopped
in the doorway. I stood up, kind of sputtered up my cane
like a spark up a damp fuse, and I lingered, and I decided
to mention about the weird screaming and hissing
in my legs where the liquor did the damage.
I finally said, “My legs … I can’t quite reach them, somehow.
They feel like radio stations in the middle of Wyoming.”
He just kind of half-smiled and eased me into the hall.
That’s perfectly normal, he said.
—from Rattle #78, Winter 2022
Martin Vest: “Sometimes just the mention of ‘poem’ brings unwanted baggage, unwelcome pressure. I don’t feel that crap when I’m writing a letter to a friend.”