Now when the screen summons up Politician X, I do a start. Not because I’m dreading your elation at his latest surge, but because you’re dead, and I will never holler at another human like I did with you.
ON YOUR LAST TRIP OUT IN THE WORLD
On your last trip out in the world you and I went out to your restaurant. There was no reason you should have been alive after all the pills and drains they put in you, but there you were, one week out of hospice. You looked so good. Your hair: thick, clean. Your skin bright as if you’d spent the weekend outside planting pines.
We slid into the booth by the front door just in case you needed a quick exit. You ordered salmon when I think you meant chicken.
You’re alive, Dad. You’re amazing. What do you have to say for yourself?
You smiled as if you’d won something—you pushed death out of the room with your shoulders! And the vibrancy of you was a sun.
No one wanted to live more than you did, but when it came down to it you did not believe in fun. You did not respect relaxing vacations or toll roads when a free, burdensome route was nearby. If you weren’t complaining about the government you were furious with the personalities on the condo board who paid too much for elevator repair and didn’t know their asses from a hole in the ground.
I’ve heard it said it’s hard work to be dead and if that’s the case you’ve come to the right place. And yet I can’t imagine it’s busy enough for you. No one knows what to do with your mouth, your mind. They’re locking you in some special chair. You keep jerking it toward the windows, which you try to clean with your shirtsleeve. Everyone begs, still, still, Tony, sit still. And you’re one big no, turning to that little globe.
PAUL LISICKY is the author of five books: The Narrow Door (a New York Times Editors’ Choice), Unbuilt Projects, The Burning House, Famous Builder,and Lawnboy. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, Conjunctions, Fence, The Offing, Tin House, and other magazines and anthologies. His awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the James Michener/Copernicus Society, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He teaches in the MFA Program at Rutgers University-Camden.