top of page


After my mother on her hands
and knees begged him into driving down
to the St. Louis Clinic for a month
of drying out they must have parked 
in front of what I’m envisioning
as one of those gray, 1930s monstrosities, 
what my mother called Depression Egyptian,

a hulking old mastodon of a building,
smelling of medicine and floor wax
and the peculiar odor of men and women
punching each other in the reeling kitchen
at 3 a.m. as the kids cried upstairs. Also
the stink of a washed-up marriage.

And there was another smell, mixed in
with the fragrance of the lilies 
on the admission desk, and I think it was
the ground-beef-gone-bad sickliness
of what this had done to his father.

Anyway, he stood there at the desk
with my mother getting checked in
and he smelled all this, and then 
shrugged his big shoulders, and winked
at my mother as he used to wink,
and very deliberately turned and walked out,

passing through the same massive
swinging doors he had entered by
just a few minutes earlier, only now
they weren’t doors but a great bronze portal
into death, which he recognized, 
and strode through with some of the old 
swagger, some of the moxie my mother 
fell for in the first place, and what
a beautiful day it was turning out to be.

—from the collection Central Air, available on Amazon


“Few of us—very few—choose the manner of our own death. But my father, only forty-five, made that decision, for mysterious reasons that have inspired a hundred of my poems.”

Share this poem to your social media page:

  • Moxie
bottom of page