“The Rubber” by Bill Brown

Bill Brown


Youngest of four, aged 16,
the only child home,
I awoke one morning to pee
and found a rubber
settled in the toilet like
a bleached worm in a puddle.

Yes, I showered with my father
at scout camp, saw the wrinkled
pucker of his penis in cold water;
as a child, I spied, with interest,
my mother’s nightgown cleavage
lead just shy of hidden nipples,
but for the first time
I discovered empirical evidence
that my parents made love.

Within months my father
would die of a heart attack.
Mother knelt beside their bed
praying for his life
in loud choking gasps.
My hands were busy at his chest,
my mouth at his mouth;
or I thought that I might
palm my ears to drown
out her shameless pleas.

My parents were in their fifties.
I was the unplanned child,
a pleasant mistake my mother said.
The memory of the rubber
drifting in the basin as I peed
makes me smile at their caution,
their passion still warm
as they struggled to send
three kids to college
and raise a teenage son.
I flushed the evidence.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007

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