Audio: Read by the author.
The local anti-Semite is reading
a biography of Goebbels
at the neighborhood café.
The French roast is pleasant.
The dark-eyed junco, who never
seems to get it, is trilling outside.
Last night the wedding guests
lifted the couple into chairs, hoisted
and rocked them, shuckling,
saying, more life, more life.
And in the morning, having read the news,
I type, Our prayers are with the victims.
My father’s wife is dying of ALS
in a small hospital room in Boston.
She can no longer move or speak,
only blink. The sign at the door
says to wear a mask. “Vanessa is pregnant,”
I say, holding her hand. “God willing,
we’ll have a baby in the fall.”
I look into her eyes, but it seems
invasive. We sit for a while
and watch the light on the wall.
When I leave I kiss her forehead.
In the hallway I take hand sanitizer
and rub it, astringent, on my lips.
The boy inside me is watching, frowning.
But something else is watching him,
saying, sweetheart, saying, it is so hard.
This thing watching will be here forever.
I know I said everything is a strategy,
but not this.
Joshua Boettiger lives in Ashland, Oregon. His work has appeared in B O D Y, Parabola, Dream Pop, and elsewhere. A contributing author to the anthology Neither Here Nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality (Lutterworth), he is also a rabbi.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.