This fireman comes every afternoon to the café on the corner dressed for his shift in clean dark blues This time it’s the second Wednesday of January and he’s meeting his daughter again who must be five or six and who is always waiting for her father like this in her charcoal gray plaid skirt with green and
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Brokeheart: Just like that
When the bass drops on Bill Withers’ Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m. and I confess I’m looking over my shoulder once or twice just to make sure no one in Brooklyn is peeking into my third-floor window to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed for three weeks before I slide from sink to stove in one long groove left foot first then back to the window side with my chin up and both fists clenched like two small sacks of stolen nickels and I can almost hear the silver hit the floor by the dozens when I let loose and sway a little back and just like that I’m a lizard grown two new good legs on a breeze -bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man with a three-day wish and two days to live. And just like that everyone knows my heart’s broke and no one is home. Just like that, I’m water. Just like that, I’m the boat. Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world rocking. Sometimes sadness is just what comes between the dancing. And bam!, my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days and no one ever said I could sing but tell me my body ain’t good enough for this. I’ll count the aches another time, one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back, this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones, I’m missing the six biggest screws to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind- rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are falling off. When the first bridge ends, just like that, I’m a flung open door.
Patrick Rosal is the author of Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea Books, 2016), Boneshepherds (Persea, 2011), My American Kundiman (Persea, 2006), and Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive (Persea, 2003). He teaches at Rutgers University-Camden and lives in Philadelphia.