Last Call

lastcall
Mood: Pensive
Drinking: Water

Last Call

Years can be rough on voices
can wear them down
to the tiniest sounds.
His voice
like his frame
has shrunken with age
and the weight of regret
and has grown
so small now

even hearing aids
cannot help me
find it. Only the sound
of his breathing
survives the long miles

struggling across the frozen shards
of empty Illinois cornfields,
catching on the ragged claws

of the Rockies, blowing through
the dusty Californian cities
until it finally reaches me

on the other end of the telephone.
I don’t know where to begin
so I speak of insignificant things
like forecasts and geography.
I am soft and careful, listening

for the rasp and rattle that tells me

he’s still connected. But the
Tootsie Rolls are my undoing.
I mention them to remind him
of sunny days when I was small
and his voice was as big as a canyon.
I remind myself, instead

of his endless parade of feathered fedoras

and secret cigarettes out behind the
horse barn, the one he himself
hammered with bent brown hands,
of the certainty of years’
worth of twisted candy wrappers,
the chewy chocolate sweetness
melting slowly inside sandwich baggies
stuffed into grandfatherly wool pockets,
always proffered with a whistle and

a Polident smile. I am so much taller

than he ever was, now. And
it’s my voice
that echoes back across state lines,
traveling along snowbound freeways
and forgotten shortcuts,
spilling across his bed sheets and
pooling gently around his ears. “You can

go, if you need to. You can go now,”
I whisper and the silence slips in

and he’s gone.

-Lo, in remembrance of Grandpa.

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