fern's pictureI’ll open one more Guinness

tonight, get in touch

with my old man’s ghost,


won’t go to a bottle of 86

or wrestle with Nine Mile Bill,

push an asshole-friend through glass.


No. No celebrations

for my mother, 89,

who just got the news


of cancer in her spine

& everywhere else.

So I turn to my dad


who got it from his,

the alcoholic response

to all of life’s curves,


high & inside or right

down the pike. Curses

& joys were always toasted


with a touch, a taste of the spirits

(meaning: don’t waste a drop,

drink it all till it’s gone—


& you’re pissed to the gills).

This is what I’ll carry

closest to my heart on my way


to the grave: the memories of

my mother & me talking

at the kitchen table


about my dad dead-

drunk in the bed

& the hateful shit he said


to her & me. She made sure

I knew that wasn’t my father,

the man we loved in there—


it was the boozy devil

inside all sad men.

She showed me it’s women


(not Atlas) who hold up the world

through innate loyalty

& terrible tenderness—


that fight-to-the-death

instinct of a she-wolf.

Tonight I salute my mom


with the bitter weakness

of my dad, tell her I love her

& thank her again


for teaching me how

to handle the trouble of living—

& how to talk with women.


for my mother, Fern

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