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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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HEBER

 

Old Heber drank in the tavern

next to his produce store,

a warehouse of his own

he bought with his wife's inheritance.

And he remembered how at first

he loved the work, how

purchase prices were low,

how he was making money

hand over fist, and thought,

could it be any better than this?

And the marriage was good,

though his step kids were sullen.

He thought in time that would change.

Then he and his wife had a daughter,

a beautiful child of his own,

and he went out onto the pier

and thanked God, lifting a glass

to toast the world as he gazed

upon the waters of the Sound,

celebrating life, higher and higher.

For a silent moment he breathed,

and everything became suspended

and clear as the Olympic peaks

on a day when the rains stopped.

But now it was dark,

and the rain returned,

and he was sick of the stench

of rotting leeks, the cold warehouse,

the rattle and crowds of the trolley,

every day going home to his wife's

slow growing coldness.

Now the step children hated him,

and he in turn hated their scrutiny.

He could never replace the first

father, his wife's secret wish

for the man whose photograph still

hung on the wall with judgment,

the one who had drowned

and was now perfect in death

and a constant shade in the house.

 

So Heber cast invisible lines

across the bar, trying to reel in

some overwhelming weight.

He took on a mistress who took

all his money, and day by day

his stories grew bleaker.

Did he always seek this,

even as it drew further away?

They finally dropped him

blind drunk in the yard,

still fighting his invisible fish.

And as he tried to rise and failed,

falling into the grey of dawn,

home spiraling madly before him,

his daughter appeared in the doorway,

little child in a bewildering doorway,

light falling from her open palms.

 

—─Douglas Cole