TO MY UNCLE WHO IS IN PRISON FOR ROBBING BANKS
Uncle, are you healthy? The hospice nurse showed me how to bolus dad’s morphine yesterday. She said it was an indication that he only has a few days left. I’m afraid we’re squandering them with routines. For instance, the day starts when someone puts on a pot of coffee, we pass around a half-eaten box of donuts from the previous day, and then tell stories of when dad was young. You appear in some of them. Do you recall the time Billy woke in his sleep and pissed in the heater vent? You should see dad on the couch. He looks like a prince, his head adorned with crystals of sweat. When you robbed those banks, why did you wear a woman’s wig? They say our phones are tapped in case one of us spills the details of where you buried that money. Dad looks like a maniacal fortune teller today. His hands fidget inches from his face, as if completing the invisible puzzle of his life. Did you ever meet my wife? She bought this recordable storybook from the Hallmark store. Grandma says she saw one like it in a commercial, where two children receive one in the mail from their grandmother. When the recording starts, the children can picture their grandmother reading the book to them in her home. We tried to record dad as he read from it. He just cussed and laughed. We all miss you. Take care.
—from Rattle #61, Fall 2018
Aaron Reeder: “At the time of writing this poem, my father had died four years prior. I was mulling over our last days with him and just how desperate we were to force normalcy upon a situation that was anything but. Around the time of my father’s decline, we learned that my uncle was wanted by the FBI for robbing banks in the Los Angeles area. I was drawn to certain juxtapositions: here was my father whose life was ending, where time moved too fast, and my uncle whose life and time were about to be put on hold. When I finished the poem, my uncle was serving a 25-year sentence.”