Uncle Karl Was a Bull’s Eye for Trouble

Stones, fists, curb-hopping cars, schemers
and scammers inevitably found him.
He fell on rocks, plummeted from trees,

stumbled on sidewalks studded with glass.
Once, he boasted, a renegade ball
at the thirteenth hole knocked him cold.
A cheeky mama’s boy who never left home,
bar fight, or bad bet–he excelled
at upping the ante and losing.

At family parties, he taught us to chug
orange soda to his whiskey shots
and smash Ritz crackers in raucous toasts.

Christmas Eve afternoon, he’d light a smoke,
crack a beer, then time us as we fired
tinsel missiles at my grandmother’s tree.    

When she died, he stood unbelieving
at our door, his heart beneath booze-splotched skin
already swerving towards its dead-end skid.

A decade later, prescription overdue,
he collapsed outside the pharmacy door,
his bluff called.  I imagine his hobble

on swollen feet, the sudden grip
of iron, the pavement against his cheek.
Strangers crowd round him and I wish
I could believe he mutters shit,  
gives them the finger, and a cockeyed grin.

Mary Rohrer-Dann grew up in Philadelphia and currently teaches at Pennsylvania State University at University Park when she is not slumming at the Jersey shore. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Cimarron Review, Sun Dog, Alembic, Antietam Review, Literary Mama, Atlanta Review, Sojourner, and other journals.

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