Gary Fincke: "What's Next?"




The last time I visit my father

While he still lives alone, he tells me

His longtime neighbor’s son is dead, shot

By a stranger on the back porch

Of the yellow-brick ranch I can see

From the three-paned bedroom window.

“About your age, that boy,” he says,

Meaning sixty, his neighbor as near

To ninety as my father, the son

Living at home as if he still walked

To the school bus stop with textbooks.

“They say he shot the other man first,”

My father adds, making mystery,

Saying the survivor was found

In the kitchen by my father’s friend

Come home from blood tests meant to adjust

The dosages that extend his heart.

“What’s next?” my father says.  “What’s next?”

The answer, for now, his moving

Next week to a nursing home where

What’s next will not be his leaving

The stove on or falling down the stairs

Or forgetting a day’s worth of drugs.

In his back yard a storm-felled tree

Sprawls so close to the house the door

Can’t be opened.  The television

Shows darkness, and my father says,

“You try” as if I might resurrect

The guests he watches until he sleeps.

The weather inside his locked windows

Suggests a ceiling of thunderheads,

But he buttons his sweater, closes

The green drapes like a magician

Ready to remove the felled tree

That stretches the width of his yard,

Telling me his neighbor confronted

The killer in his kitchen, saying,

At last, “Where I’ve sat a hundred times,”

Beginning to remember the shape

And color of the chairs, how a clock

Is hung above the window that looks

Out on the porch, how, if you lean

Over the sink, you could examine

The length of it for your son after

A bleeding stranger nods that way

As if he’s answering the question

That you cannot lift into the light

With your just crippled lips and tongue.



Gary Fincke's latest collection of poems, The History of Permanence, won the Stephen F. Austin Poetry Prize and was published in 2011.  His next book is a collection of stories, The Proper Words for Sin, which will be published by West Virginia in early 2013.