It was part of the year when
Leaves burn brown and crisp
And Uncle Mike’s hair turned sterling.
On our way to breakfast,
His son calls him a hippie in need of a haircut.
Uncle Mike looks into the rearview and says,
“If I cut my hair, it would sell like gold.”
Aunt Joanne exhales cigarette smoke,
Rolls her eyes.
Flicking ashes out the passenger window,
“And women would cry in the streets.”
We laugh into our breakfast tacos.
On my way home from work,
I see Uncle Mike in the rearview
Pulling a cigarette from a pack of Kools.
He continues to grin
When our eyes lock.
He mumbles words I can’t hear.
His mouth widens to match mine.
Feathery hair swirls in the zephyr of a window rolled down
Like the declining rhythmic beat of an electrocardiogram.
He knows he’s dead… I think.
I grip the steering wheel like his frozen corpse hand
One week ago.
Thank you for everything
Was all I could muster
At his deathbed.
“Let go so you won’t suffer anymore,”
Was what my brother said.
Restricted tongue lapped over
Chapped lips and dried blood.
He patted us on the head,
Like well-behaved children,
And I’m still
Wailing all the way home,
Rocking in my seat….
Side to side…
Punching and slapping the dashboard.
His death is still the scourge of individuals
Who folded under the pressure of familia,
The consecrated love.
A dream that was divine.