The Last Nail

Wonder,
regret,
disconnected phones,
internet searches,
discoveries and obituaries—
coffins
and coffins
and coffins—
so many coffins
nailed shut
by outdated addresses
beside names in
a 25-year-old address book.

Old

I

She was supposed to outlive him,
but she gave up,
left him alone,
dependent on visitations
from her children
saddled with his name,
each waiting for all
they hadn’t already received—
payment for replacing
the son he imagines
in another time,
another life.

II

He built the addition twenty years ago,
leaving the rest of the house to his father,
the old man who railed at him
for ditching the first wife and son
for this whore and her brood.
He wished and prayed the old man
into the grave years before the coffin lowered.
Now the room holds the memory,
the whore’s chair empty, his failing kidneys,
and that big screen TV,
unable to muffle
the voices and names
to which no one answers.

III

She’s gone as are all those years.
His son didn’t have the decency
to show for the funeral

Never mind no one tried to reach him—
the boy knew.
There’s this card from him,
homemade, arriving today,
no return address.
In this house—its rooms,
saturated in the stench of tobacco—
her kids gaze in silence
from every available shelf,
his boy present only in
the words of this card
and the shadows of his mind
to where he banished the boy
long before today.

Blood Moon

It’s the fourth in the lunar tetrad,
as bloody as the rest,
and she’s advising,
You best heed the signs
of these end times!

Who’re you quoting?
The preacher you sent
your money to?

Why’re you the way you are?
People prayed for you when you came in;
they’ll pray when you go out.
But you ain’t gonna ruin my day.
I got groceries to get.

But the moon, the moon…!
Won’t those groceries go bad?

She slams down the phone
the same as last time.

Integration

Warned not to talk to the monkeys,
he didn’t know which way 
to turn to ask for the time,
but the monkeys wore watches,
spoke his language,
laughed and played
and asked him to join in,
even as the old man
raged in his head
about pride and superiority
and god’s intentions
until the boy could no longer
hear him over the creamy voice
of the brown girl
with the silver-plated watch.

Religion

Born Shinto, reared Buddhist,
she’s found guidance in the Bible Belt,
abandoning the sound of falling trees
to the forest to resolve.
Husband and parents are
the challenge that remains—
the cascade away
from one path to another,
one saving grace.

Angry voices shatter
Sunday mornings
over a daughter’s needs,
a mother’s devotions,
a father’s rights.

Speak softly a prayer,
please, please,
then silence.
And tears.

About the Authors:

C.S. Fuqua’s books include White Trash & Southern ~ Collected Poems, The Swing ~ Poems of Fatherhood, Walking after Midnight ~ Collected Stories, Big Daddy’s Fast-Past Gadget, Hush, Puppy! A Southern Fried Tale, and Native American Flute ~ A Comprehensive Guide ~ History & Craft, among others. His work has appeared in publications such as Year’s Best Horror Stories XIX, XX and XXI, Pudding, Pearl, Chiron Review, Christian Science Monitor, Slipstream, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, The Writer, and Honolulu Magazine.

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