Death and Footballby Hayley Mitchell Haugen
On his eighty-third birthday my parents’ neighbor
had a simple lunch, poured himself a highball,
retired to the den for the Bengals game,
and stopped breathing.
When his wife discovered him, she did what her heart
told her – called the paramedics, who arrived
with their epinephrine and defibrillators, to revive
the pulse that failed him.
Medicine took over, then, and Covid forbade
the family their visits. They waited outside
the hospital, received news of the ventilator
and therapeutic hypothermia; three days later,
they were told to come, to say goodbye.
I’d spent my adolescence in that good man’s house,
best friends as I was with his daughter, Suzie.
We’d disturbed his sleep with slumber party antics,
hogged his woodsy-smelling hot tub, made a mess
in his kitchen, frying wontons. Once, inexplicably,
we hid a burnt burger patty in the utensil drawer.
He was a patient, forgiving man. I like to think
Joe wasn’t quite there for those tearful good-byes,
that he’d already quietly left us, the taste of good bourbon
on his tongue, the pleasure of a well-made pass,
the last thing on his mind.
* * * * *
Hayley Mitchell Haugen is a Professor of English at Ohio University Southern. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag (2018) is her first full-length poetry collection, and her chapbook, What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To is from Finishing Line Press (2016). Her latest chapbook, The Blue Wife Poems, is available from Kelsay Books (September 2022). She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.