By four o’clock he’s picked the many locks
of longing, among his scattered empties slips
into a silence thick as soup boiled down to muck.
Don’t mention the A-word, please. He can quit
whenever he wants, become a beaming senior
circling in a glittering parking lot,
finding that certain spot by the pharmacy.
Call at three and his voice is darkly hearty
already, with a dash of the man who used to slam
this house awake. If a daughter appeared
in the kitchen doorway, he promised
never to smash another plate,
and knelt to help her pick up her father’s mess.
Not to worry. That was years ago,
and only once did he drive into a blackout
to sleep until a trooper tapped the window
at his cheek. He’s going nowhere
anymore, and will not be brought back,
a somber tonnage of shame you knew would soon
get loose. Now if terror
dilates in any room of this house, only he
goes in. So what’s it to you
if some summer days he’s got nothing to do
but relax when you finally go?
By the time you back out and turn around,
he’s unplugged his coffee pot, lowered the shades.
He turns one light on beside his favorite chair
as you look all three ways at the four-way stop.