Greystone Chip Shots
Morristown, New Jersey
Buzzed in, I bump into a ward girl who drawls, “You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. And your son, so handsome, really smart too.” You smile knowingly, mouthing, She’s psychotic. You tell me that I look so skeletal, you can’t look at me. Behind glass, Tattoo-boy panther paces, a flash of interest after a smile. Someone is screaming.
Your first patient outing. Grandma and I take you to lunch. Backseat bound, you already complain of the February drizzle, the directions, the driving. What if we get lost? What if you unclick the lock and bolt? Grandma: “Are you keeping busy, making friends?”
It’s a three-hour sign-out, but we’re done eating in five minutes. The Friendly’s staff cheer annoys you. I hand you my new book and you read aloud, critiquing my syntax. Grandma: “You must excuse me if my English is bad; you know I haven’t had as good an education as you.” I tell you about our trip to Cuba, but you say you only want to go to Uncle Adolf’s Berchtesgaden, so what if it’s gone? Any place is better than here.
You flare over questions about your New Jersey girl, now in the Hamptons on holiday, the Daisy Fay who dreams you to spring, the one whom you finger for your downfall. Grandma says she feels sorry.
At the Putt-Putt mini golf, you’re mad when you don’t make par, flail the Roundup air. When the ball rolls into the gravel, I cry, “Chip shot! Chip shot!” Thereafter, you’d mock, “Chip shot, Chip shot!”
Buzzed back in, we meet “your team”: OT, MD, LSW, PsyD, CCCP, all shuffle in, all mumble, eye me coldly: “Don’t you like outdoor gardening, Patrick? Can we increase art therapy and library time?”
You proclaim, “I am a madman among madmen.” To the question of what’s your philosophy, you shrug: “Don’t think; don’t drink.”
Grandma offers, “How about a root beer candy?”
Behind the doctors, great windows show greystones, the late-day, shift-change light moving into the slushed shush of the grounds.
Because matter is never lost,
did you never really go?
So I decide to keep everything
a little alive: your expired goji berries,
old Bic and Marlboro pack,
even an empty jug of Choco Whey Protein
you’d chugged on your health kick.
A Mason jar of bread and butter pickles we canned,
what, a decade ago?
Opened, it had lost all its sour flavor,
and my cell saves your voice,
emanating again from the Cloud:
“Hey, Mom, thank you for the dinner invitation.”
“Hey, Mom, it’s me. I really do want to thank you for the offer.
Hope you enjoy the dinner.”
“Thanks again, but I think it’s best I stay here today.
It’s rainy outside. And I have A.A. anyway . . .”
Pent bubbles escaping,
gargle from your parted lips,
now speaking a slack-jawed life of their own.
So, it’s finally in the churchyard, and it’s ugly as sin.
One more parental good intention gone wrong,
—wrong, scouting cemetery models,
sketching prime aged examples,
tracing and erasing effigies
fonts finessed, proportions niggled,
months arguing over inscriptions.
At last, the devil is chiseled in the details,
by some corncob Georgia cracker
who got paid by the day and took his sweet time . . .
The bud rose is overblown, droops.
Barre gray granite, cold, and over-polished
into such a shiny mod, the ants could slide
to the base, itself too skinny in taper to support the stone,
leaving the whole thing looking like it might topple
From its own dirty truth; crabgrass
skirts the worst of it.
All that’s a racket anyway.
I want to send it back COD
in anthraxed smithereens or drop it
pelting the fat tub undertaker who prices up his pieties
(“Patience, my dear. It’s a work of art. Takes time!”)
You gave me your word
Your word was our bond—
and that’s all I’ve got left,
my forehead creased to the wet bevel.