The King of Podunk

Written for Shay’s Word Garden (Cathy Day)

You painted an elephant
on my wrist towing a Winnebago

and said “this fucking circus”
as weetbix dribbled down your chin.

You were ninety five and your
knuckles had ballooned with arthritis

so big it seemed impossible
that science could exist inside 

the limitations of a joint.
We liked to remember the day we'd cut

the roof off your gold Oldsmobile
and planted sunflowers in the footwells

and nasturtiums in the seat stuffing
while Cole Porter oozed between

hash cookies and cigarette smoke.
As it all grew, you called it your money garden

and we made you a papier-mâché coronet,
crowned you king of Podunk. Why not? 

You boasted you’d made misery immortal,
that you had the ashes of your tears 

in a charm on the anklet you bought 
in India when Buddha was a boy.

You always made jokes like that
about your age,  counted your

wrinkles like they were circus tricks.
You once painted an elephant

as weetbix dribbled down your chin
and you said "this fucking circus",

Your last words before the stroke
took your voice away.  A swing 

of life’s trapeze and a hole
in the safety net.  When you fell

it was me that broke
even while the circus swept on.

7 thoughts on “The King of Podunk

  1. The tenderness for the old man (I’m assuming it’s a man) and the grief at his ruin moved me. You used the List words quite deftly, and the Oldsmobile in the poem put me in mind of a couple of places here in the USA. One is called Carhenge and it is a replica of England’s Stonehenge but built with old junk cars painted gray. It’s in Nebraska. The other is called Cadillac Ranch and it’s all these old Cadillacs buried nose first in the ground and sticking up. You can spray paint a message on them if you want. That one is in Texas. Anyway, it’s a heart-wrenching thing, what you describe here, a feisty, independent old bird outliving his body’s ability to carry on.



  2. This is one amazing poem Jo! Stunning imagery that opens the eyes and the heart all at once. As Shay so wonderfully said, your use of the words is brilliant. This really moved me and I think is a new favorite for me of yours!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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