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My Cousin’s Son


ISSUE:  Winter 2013

One of the first times I saw
My cousin’s son he was a kid wearing
A baggy Canadian hockey jersey
Visiting his great-grandparents

(My grandparents) on their farm,
Down from Alaska for a visit,
And now he is dead. He grew
To be, like his dad, a big man

And I remember standing in
The front dining room surrounded
By my grandmother’s doilies
And dozens of photos in gold-

Colored rectangular stamped frames
Of cousins, second-cousins, their
Children, their kith and kin,
Not always necessarily mine

By blood, and when we shifted
Around the room, the Korean
China my Uncle William brought back
From the war rattled in the corner

Cabinet. (When he was still
A boy Jeff shared with me
My brief boyhood propensity
To play with matches.) Jeff moved

With his mother, my cousin,
To West Virginia, though I
Think in his heart he must have
Always missed Alaska, where,

Quick, agile on the ice, he
Seemed to have been happy,
To hear him talk about it. When
Jeff lost his job, having a wife

Now and family, he stopped
His blood pressure medicine
Since he’d lost his insurance,
Still a young man, though no kid.

He died slowly. He wasn’t
Able to get to a phone, and he clawed
The toilet seat off the toilet dying.
I want to take out a shotgun

And shoot whoever’s on the other side
Of the door, whoever left
Him there like that, I want to burn down
The house and everyone in it,

But the house in my mind must be
Metaphorical and this struck match
Burns me, my thought, my finger,
And I’m sitting in the dark

But not alone.

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