In Memory of Randy H.

Hippo—your teenage nickname
said, shouted, mumbled, mouthed,
breath wandering into the world
in the days your orange Cutlass
performed pirouettes
in an iced parking lot,
laughter and Meat Loaf’s vocals
the backdrop for innocence
reflected in the glow
of dashboard light.

You flipped burgers, ladled chili, fried chicken
at Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant
while customers grilled me about
latest specials, iced coffee, pumpkin pie.

Always a next joke or another prank
ready to be poured or played,
like the supposed secret in the walk-in freezer
whose door you closed on me.

My hands gripped my hips, hornet eyes
confronting when you opened the door,
sporting your smile, offering a hug.

Forty years later the local paper
spun your obituary, weaving the fabric
of your life. Cancer claimed you
at 55, a thread I’ve yet to grasp.

Like This

Phone buzzes, buzzes, buzzes on my desk,
middle of the workday, displays my son’s name.

I drop my pen and stare. This is not a text
like KK, Sure, or Yes.

My son calls, my brain flashes,
emergency, emergency, emergency.
My boss lets me take the call,
knows my son never calls like this.

He’s upset about a Wisconsin company
ready to implant microchips

in hands, to unlock doors,
make a purchase, track location.

Wants my thoughts after he asks,
Who would agree to this?

A rice-sized pellet injected
into a hand, a hand like this,

like the one I’m using
to hold my phone.

My Son

My Bobo, I taught him
the soft whistle
that lived under his breath,
pushed words to fly,
not stumble or trip
from his mouth.

My Bobo, with his hat and tie
not just for Sunday service
but for wearing on the street,
except when friends grabbed him
to play baseball in the park.

My Bobo, cleaned house, cooked,
begged with his smart smile
to visit Mose with his cousins
down south in Mississippi.

My Bobo, back home in Chicago,
the whole country looking on,
knowing the name of my Bobo,
Emmett Till.