The McKinley Review Magazine

It Takes 54 Years to Write this Poem

By: Charlie Brice Posted on: December 2018


My father crushes out his cigarette

and heads into the bedroom where

my mother already sleeps. I watch

the last of Johnny Carson, turn off

the tv, and curl up on the couch

in my skivvies—July 8, 1964. It’s a sin

but Annie’s breasts are like pearls

and Joanie’s legs are enough

to make me mewl. I’m so full

of horneymoans I don’t have

to touch myself to come.


At 4 AM I hear my father’s snores.

They’re strange—only inhales,

no exhales. My mother screams, Ward!

He’s purple when I straddle his body

and bring my fist down hard on his chest

like they do on Ben Casey. I don’t feel

the cool July air in Cheyenne

while I run across the street to get

Dr. Simons. I think my dad’s dead, I say

when he comes to the door. I hear

more snores while Dr. Simons teaches

my mother how to breathe into his mouth

and pound on his chest. The ambulance guys

wheel my father through our living room.

I focus on the big toe of his right foot.

That toe is dead.


My cousin John Pavich is first to arrive

for the wake—his mustache meticulously

trimmed, his suit perfectly pressed,

his pipe lit and fragrant, the mask

of a man who attended daily mass

for forty years. He invites me for a walk.

Jesus, he says, takes from us those we love

in order to punish us for our sins.