I watch them die as they take the Medicaid but
refuse the medicine. My nurses give me hell—
soft ol’ Smith. That jerk Gorinski just yells
at his patients until they eat the paper-cup pills.
I can’t afford that. Every day brings new bills:
new clothes for the new wife, the second mortgage.
Kid number 4 thinks I owe her, gives me garbage
in exchange for gadgets. Kid 2 I don’t discuss.
Kid 1, a boy, turned out the best, but it took guts
to total a sports car then smuggle liquor to prom.
If guts were brains... But sons are sons, and songs
haven’t changed. My favorite, kid 3, the middle
girl, writes stuff. I don’t read her little scribbles
that show a life twisted from what I know: her mother
in a mirror, the casserole years, some southern
disaster consoled and forgotten through pecan pie.
If this brittle kid had my job, she would cry
over every idiot’s death, each a metaphor
she’d write to shame us. But we can’t be the editors
of death. Everyone thinks the south is moonlit
magnolias, but I know that when you get
your pathetic obituary, it’s too late to revise.