Conversation with a Widow

Original Text: 
The Ruined Cottage (Toronto: Wolsak and Wynn, 1993): 94-95.
1Uncle Johnny died after rigid years
2of cutting hair in his shop downtown.
3Toward the end he cut it badly, breathing
4a whisky scent into the tonic, talc and
5glossy male curls piling up on the tiled floor.
6He died shrivelled, a man who seldom spoke,
7still with that nickname, Johnny, last
8taciturn hint of a youth who may have been
9angry, a lover of women, filled and lightened
10by vast ocean, the sky over America.
11He spent his time at home, silent,
12or sometimes in bars, or on the corner
13by King's Newsstand with others like himself
14on sun-baked cement, spitting single words, standing
15in dark slacks, short-sleeved shirts and suspenders.
16The tall and narrow-waisted new world
17had by that time completely rejected suspenders.
18And after the funeral Mary, his wife, was crying
19and said to me, "Why is it that the men
20always die sooner? Do they just give up?"
21We stood there in the church of our fathers, who
22explained their own deaths, all death, by an ancient crime.
23How foolish it would have been to tell you, Mary,
25adaptation of the sexes, effects of the hormones,
26or social factors, things you'd listen to blankly.
27Better to say that what we find in ourselves,
28whatever weakness, we ourselves have put there.
29Both of us knew enough about men's weakness.
30Your question didn't need an answer: I
31simply shrugged and silently, without real hope,
32asked to be absolved from the fault of men:
33Powers of earth, give me the male strength
34that we desire, kindly strength, which protects.
35Don't make my wife a nurse, helplessly
36to watch me dying drunk and before her.
37And do not punish me for pride because
38I've asked to be so strong: to be the last.

Notes

24] dioxyribonucleic acid: DNA, the genetic code. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004
Special Copyright: 

<b>This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Albert Frank Moritz or the Wolsak and Wynn permissions department.</b>