News From Home

On a dreary Friday afternoon,
an uncle calls my office,
a voice not heard for 15 years,
the number obtained from an old school friend.

My old man in a hospital somewhere,
two strokes overnight,
and more coming.
A last opportunity for a wayward son.

The hum of long distance delays each word,
and they come to me
as if bouncing down a dirt road.
Did he ask for me, I hear myself say.

And then more details of the family gathering,
cousins from miles away,
the shame of it, the only son,
the brave family huddled around a phone.

I find the fear in myself, and feel my gut twisting
as I set the phone down on the receiver,
the thin voice of my uncle still coming through
after I hang up, the voice becoming

that voice of my old man’s, thick, meaty,
shouting, reaching, pushing me into a corner
in a basement when I was 11. His open hand
as big as a car door.

Pfefferle, W.T. The Meager Life and Modest Times of Pop Thorndale. Rochester Hills (MI): NFSPS Press, 2007.