After Ray Materson
He unraveled worn out socks to make thread, begged a needle from a guard, embroidered life outside these walls. Five thousand stitches to sew a Mickey Mantle baseball card from memory, five thousand stitches to shrink his mother’s parlor down, make it playing card size. In his palm he holds the portrait of a seagull attempting flight, wing-tips gray as stone, one claw caught in barbed wire.
The Alcoholic’s Mustache
My father-in-law’s brain was down to its last trick—comatose for days, but his throat still knew to swallow. We argued with the cardiologist. A nun explained that the doctor’s religion precluded him from letting the body die, and this was a Catholic hospital. The ventilator rose and fell. I studied my father-in-law, the growing stubble, greasy hair, ragged mustache. A hospice center finally took him in, turned off the machines. There, the nurse washed his hair, shaved his cheeks, his chin. He would have been grateful, we told her. He'd always kept himself neat. She said it would be awhile, that we should go eat at the diner around the corner. Before the burgers came, we got the call. brass plaque, the poet William Carlos Williams treated patients here
The future Justice sits at a paneled desk, spits into the mic about beer, about being young and summer, his surprise anyone would ruin him like this. The room tilts. It has the paneled walls of my parents’ house. Are those my brothers’ muted voices or have I muted CNN? They are thirteen and eight, watching horror movies again, our mother in the kitchen, unpacking videotapes and groceries. I ask my brother, “How can you want to see this?” He shrugs. “It’s not as if we’re watching a snuff film.” Which are illegal, he tells me, but you can get the tapes if you want them bad enough. I peer into the room. Is there a third boy, a kid from the neighborhood, from the country club? He nods at my brother. If you want it bad enough you can get a girl upstairs, on the floor, on the bed. And years later, when you’re called on the carpet, you can say she might have been assaulted, at some point, by someone, but unless it’s on film, it wasn’t you.
Poems ©2022 Laura Shovan
All rights reserved
…is a children’s author, educator, and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet whose chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Laura has written several award-winning middle grade novels, including The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, Takedown, and the Sydney Taylor Notable A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi. She teaches for Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.