That’s what Dad always wanted.
“Close the door behind you,” he’d snap,
or “Did you take out the trash?” The man
hated loose ends, any task dragging
from one day into the next. “You
finish your algebra?” he’d fling at me
blind from behind his newspaper.
Or “Let’s finish trimming these hedges
before darkness takes us over.”
(Nothing was worse than uneven
Red-tip Photinias.) But the thing
he hated most was getting old:
“Old men are like broken tools
or leaky buckets,” he said,
“or the invisible man in the movies,
just fading and fading until he’d
have to wrap himself with rolls of gauze
just so folks would know he was still there.”
So Mom took some comfort later
from his bad good luck. That
Sunday morning he left with Bo
to put a neck yoke on the crazy cow
that kept jumping over the fence.
He aimed to be through before church,
and he was, almost: unconscious
as a stone by noon, but
his dawdling heart kept
beating till half past five.
Mac Gay is the author of 3 collections: Dearests, Federal Poets, Physical Science, winner of the Tennessee Poetry Prize, and Pluto’s Despair, out this past November from Kattywompus Press. My poems have appeared in many journals, including Atlanta Review, Cutbank, Ironwood, Loose Change, and Snake Nation Review. My poems have been anthologized in the Southern Poetry Anthology: Georgia, from Texas Review Press. He teaches English and lit at Perimeter College of Georgia State University.