Last Poem

No basketball or tool was ever my friend.
My heart was large, but slow. Everyone knew
When I missed a beat. The things I knew were
Small and unsubtle, particular as dates in a history book
Or weather forecasts in an almanac. I was fine with it.
Fine also with rain, snow, and sun. I loved all cycles,
Believed in the calendar as fiercely as a fresh convert.
Once, as a boy, I saw Goose Gossage pitch
And remembered that swaggering fact each spring.
A little older, shook James Dickey’s mighty paw
Watched my own hand disappear.
I went to concerts. Heard Clapton. Heard Dylan.
Stayed awake all night each time afterwards
So my mind still hummed electric at morning.
Despite it all, I never learned to dance or even walk with
Anything Arthur Murray would call grace.
I drove across many states. Lost many maps.
Asked for directions. Told stories.
Flirted and further lost my way.
Ate pickled eggs, hot dogs, boiled peanuts,
And fried chicken at gas stations from Maryland to Louisiana.
After many stops, made a home at 549 Ruby Oaks Lane,
Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37128.
All my life there were many friends, though some left early.
My children stuck around me, gave more joy than tears by
Overwhelming percentages. My children were numerous and
Avowedly profane. Among the many women there are to love,
There was only one. Which was enough.
In love’s abundance, I grew large and round.
My voice coarsened and my laugh could be heard
Four rooms over or across a football field.
When the end came it was swift and without
Gasps or pain. On a late summer night, the television
On past normal time, a cat jumped in my chair eager
For affection. By then I was wordless and quietly gone.
Let none who loved me well or long think of my end.

Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. His poetry is widely published
in magazines, large and small. He has read and performed his work at universities and performance venues throughout the country. His many poetry collections include Portable Light (Redhawk), Leftover Distances (Luchador), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), and Back Alley Saints at the Tiki Bar (Redhawk).