Papaw Poems

Dance the Charleston

He never ate the fried chicken. We had Japanese food drowned in shrimp sauce for his birthday. Between bites of broccoli, I told him he was young. Seventy is young. We were going to watch Cowboys and Aliens. Next year will be fifty years of marriage, the Rockies are waiting. Dance the Charleston, play the bass, sing those Gospel songs, come back home, watch Westerns. Make us all feel like they’re shooting up the house, but it’s only John Wayne. Massage my back with your worn hands. Forget the Agent Orange, forget the Radiation. Forget the fireworks that reminded you of Vietnam. Dance the Charleston. Let’s get out of your room, I’ll drag you out, and though I said goodbye the right way, that phone call was too short. Laugh one more time. Make your wife laugh until she cries. Never mind, don’t make her cry again. Don’t fly yet, don’t fly, fly away, oh glory. Stay here, move those pale legs that were once so tan, and dance. Dance the Charleston.

Purple Heart

if it wasn’t for the heart or

the organs that sing and churn

and are alive in and of themselves

if it wasn’t for the organs,

selfishly eroding to

lifeless pockets –

say goodnight, slivers of meat

if it wasn’t for Vietnam,

the enemy, your purple heart

and lovers rendezvous in Hawaii

if there was a void and no

promise of redemption or

afterlife permeation –

vapor-filled lumps of matter couldn’t

turn to praise and the organ

mass would draw no attention

to its low drowns and long puffs

if it wasn’t for incisions,

vessels, pressure, pints, purity

pills and vulnerability –

God’s work in the war wounds

if it wasn’t for the layers

of mushy, fleshy limbs

I wouldn’t have had your hugs

Published by celinamcmanus

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