The Last Day of His Life
The last day of his life began
like all the rest except
he found some pills above the sink
and took them down to stare
into their white infinity
then said out loud, Why white?
The last day of his life he packed lunch for his children
and stood waiting at the door while each one filed by
taking the brown bag from his hand and smiling
as he admonished them to study hard.
The last day of his life he kissed
his wife and told her not to worry.
Getting in the car he drove
until he couldn't be seen from the house
then followed the long narrow path through the field to the beach
with its white sand that seemed to stretch into infinity
and sat there watching white clouds disturb
the sky with shapes that had no permanence,
with weight that wasn't there,
and wondered once more Why white?
The Letter Writer
The tip of the pen had worn away
and scratched at the page,
making him shudder the way hard chalk
scraping on a blackboard once did.
Still, just one more letter to write.
One more letter. No one writes letters anymore,
not with a pen with a broken tip.
It would be easier on a computer --
e-mail. Just hit send, and it's done before
there's time to think, do I want to send this?
Computers are safer. They protect
him the way his own handwriting cannot.
But his computer's in a dark
room inside an empty house.
A room void of other breath but
his own. He thinks he'd rather hear
the scratching. At least here, men
with great rings of keys pass back and forth
with great practiced ceremony,
pushing brooms, wearing rags
on their belts, coughing phlegm. Not pretty.
Not like a friend
Not what a dog or cat
could be. But still he prefers
the company of their loneliness
to such silent dependency,
the smell of ammonia and polish to
sour milk and rotting grapes
behind the beer in the fridge at home.
He wants to like this place. This time.
But he can't. The letter's unfinished and
the pen won't let him. He thinks
a new pen, one that didn't scrape
but rolled as easy as the surf
would make this place perfect.
The words would spill out the way milk
Leaks from a mother's breast. We've
become too private, he writes and then
throws the paper away because
that's all there is that's left to be.
Joseph Saling is a writer who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. His volume of poetry A Matter of Mind was published in 2004 by FootHills Publishing in 2004. His work has appeared widely in journals such as The Formalist, The Raintown Review, Pivot, Poet Lore, and Birmingham Poetry Review, andOhio Journal.