Nick McRae


The room's too hot and reeks of piss and puke
and lemon bleach. Paw Paw's flannel robe's
stained gold with weak iced tea, his cuff's hem frayed,
picked ragged by his untrimmed fingernails.

The nurse tells Dad he wet the bed again,
says he shakes and hollers in the night
and half the time they have to strap him down.
She says he'll barely touch his collard greens,

his buttermilk and cornbread, honey-softened
saltine crackers--but that he's doing fine.
Every time we leave, Dad doesn't talk
for hours, just grips the steering wheel and stares,

and when he speaks he begs me for his life.
Don't do that to me, son. Don't never do it.

Nick McRae is the author of Mountain Redemption, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition and forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, and Moravia, forthcoming from Folded Word Press. His poems, reviews, and translations have appeared or will soon appear in Hayden's Ferry Review, Linebreak, Passages North, The Southern Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere.

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