JOSEPH GREEN

Over dinner, my father starts talking
about his colostomy pouch and how
often he has to change it, so I ask him
to pass the gravy. He doesn’t get the joke.
He just keeps going. It is a topic on which
his expertise is unquestionable.

Marquita remembers something
she has to do and excuses herself to do it.
My father pushes back his chair.
He opens his trousers to better display
the subject of our table conversation.

The word anomaly comes to mind here,
as in a deviation from what you’d ordinarily expect.
As in subatomic particles colliding so impressively
that shock waves short circuit
history as we know it. As we know it, history
happened in the past, but here it is now, again,
in front of us, my father and I busy making ours,
he with his ostomy pouch, and I with what I’ve left
untouched on my plate. Meanwhile the stock
market falters and farts and American soldiers
cross a border into someone else’s country, thus
presenting the problem of how to bring them back.
My father is not concerned. His current subject
keeps escaping its own accepted boundaries. He says,
Whenever it leaks it leaks right here. He runs one finger
along the patch that holds the bag in place.

Marquita’s place at the table remains
vacant. She’s taking her time. My father’s time,
however, is almost up. A year from now
he will be gone, and I will be the one holding the bag,
wishing I hadn’t always been trying to change the subject.

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