Drawing Up the Papers
I’m standing outside in a three-piece suit
on my lunch break from work between two cars,
holding replacement copies of papers
giving trumped-up titles—Executor
of the Estate. Power of Attorney.
In the strong wind, everything is flapping.
Now I am the Fate who measures the thread,
I think. Now I am the Fate who cuts it.
In one car, there’s my father, so frail, now,
we didn’t want to risk him in the wind,
eyes sunken and dark, yellowed claw grasping
a cigarette, smoke curling out the cracked
window of his old pickup. The lawyer—
think an older, balder Larry David,
an old piss stain on his rumpled brown slacks—
is pointing at lines to sign here if you
don’t want tubes down your throat, initial here
if you want your dilapidated house
to go to your son. The lawyer’s old wife
has doddered out in her off-pink pantsuit
and sits in my car to the right of me,
stamping whatever I pass through the cracked
window with a notary seal. The wind
tries to take the papers every time.
Or perhaps I am the wind, the channel
that passes between. Put out that cancer
stick, the lawyer demands of my father.
But I’m already dying of cancer,
he barks back. That doesn’t mean I have to,
replies older, balder Larry David
at Law, and how goddamned ridiculous
is my life at this moment, nervously
twisting the silver ring on my right hand
in a cold parking lot in the middle
of my life, somewhere at the end of theirs.
For fuck’s sake, I want to scream through the cracks
in windows, in asphalt, the fraying edge
of my sanity. I measure the feet
between cars—five of mine—cut the tension
with a lame joke—pretty, pretty, pretty
good—but the wind has carried it away,
and they have finished. I have to rush back
to work. I have to let my father’s friend
drive him back to his deathbed. We all have
somewhere to be, I think, as the lawyer
and his wife walk hand in hand up the steps
to their office building at the precise
speed of mold. What a ridiculous thing
life is. Time is. Dignity. We never
have enough of any of them, and yet,
at the end, I think we come to realize
none of that matters, that the winds that blow
between will scour us clean of our worries,
leave us just how they found us—nude, mute, stunned.
Chad Frame’s work appears in Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Philadelphia Stories, Barrelhouse, Rust+Moth, and other journals and anthologies, as well as on iTunes from the Library of Congress. He is the Director of the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Montgomery County, the Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing, a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv performance troupe, and founder of the Caesura Poetry Festival and Retreat.