Monday, August 2, 2010

The Poet Visits Her Father-in-Law

Taqueria Charly - chorizo/eggImage by Boz Bros via Flickr
There may be a couple of you in my tiny group of 8 followers who know I'm a writer. If you are simply stopping by to read a post or two I'm sure it is in no way apparent from my writing on this blog that I have any writing skills to speak of. Here's the sad thing: I have an MFA in creative writing. (I know....who could have imagined!) And up until recently--well really the past few years--I was actively writing poetry and non fiction, publishing even. Let's just say I've had a lot going on, and I'll fill you in more about all of this as my blog continues.

One of my goals with this blog is to reclaim my writing, to remind myself who I am and what I want to do. So, from time to time I will be posting published and unpublished poems, essays and memoir excerpts. The following is an essay published in the Winter 2007 issue of Brevity, a marvelous online literary journal. And here is a link if you wish to see it in published form.

The Poet Visits Her Father-in-Law

Scum on the handle of the refrigerator and a giant greasy handprint on the glass kitchen table. He has turned his cup upside down again and a pool of orange juice coagulates on the clear surface. He uses the same Styrofoam cup every day, never rinses it. Never throws it away. The knife is lying on the table, the same knife he uses to spread peanut butter, jelly and mayonnaise on his boiled eggs. He will use it for months unless you take it away, and never figure out why he has crapped all over the toilet and himself.

No pictures hang in the hallway, only black handprints marking his path. He never washes his hands or cuts his fingernails. Cheesy yellow grime glows beneath his nails. He refuses to take more than one bath a week, never changes his boxers or pajamas. A crusty brown ring circles the mouthpiece of the nebulizer. Twice a day he sits at the table and breathes in the misty air, coughs deep and brings up something alien; he spits it in the kitchen trashcan he keeps between his legs.

Swimming pools were his business. He smoked and drank, and smoked. Emphysema is drowning him, but he’s not sure if it came from smoking or because he is allergic to pine trees. “It’s from smoking,” I tell him. He coughs and I gag. The light behind him shines on his face, his profile a half moon.

He’s in the habit of humming when he breathes. Habit not necessity. When I hear that hum tightness clinches my jaw and pulls on my back. His oxygen tank buzzes and vibrates my teeth when I sit slack-jawed on the couch. He has no teeth. He smacks his food, smears it along his gums, and hums and hums. His hands shake the spoon, slapping it against the place mat.

The other day he taught me how to make his chorizo and eggs. He taught me to warm the flour tortillas on the burner of the stove, like they do in Texas. Then his humming turned into a song. His smacks and slapping spoon turned to drum beats and the sizzle of the pan became our tambourine.


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  1. Please keep writing, girlie!! I LOVE this essay...thanks for sharing.

  2. That's the plan. Thanks for the push. I think I can. I think I can. :)

  3. Beautiful, Joy. I miss your writing.

  4. Rowe, I miss my writing too! And yours!

    Bad Ass, muchas gracias. Oh, and I'm gonna need you to break somethin' off for the postal worker in Fuquay-Varina who stole my birthday bucks.