Pale As Milk

I live in a constellation of memories
of visits to Grandpa Roy and rides on his bulldozer,
visits to the hospitals where Uncle Jeff insisted on illness
for the free room, free meals, the free cable TV,
visits through the phone line after midnight
when Uncle Culby wanted to play me a song
by The Who after a few days off his meds—
we never visited him
in the psych wards or in jail,
we never visited Jeff on the skids,
we never visited our own Pop
aside from Sunday afternoons,
and I wonder now
where he spends his Sundays,
or if his last was spent alone.

We never visited our family’s men for any celebration
until we collectively broke the law
when we broke into that golf course by moonlight
to scatter Grandpa Roy’s ashes
and I sat there in Pop’s driver’s seat, sixteen,
permitted to drive only with an adult
but only my thirteen-year-old brother beside me

as I gripped the wheel and squinted at the shapes
approaching from the darkness—the strangest
figures in full stride—my uncles,
wet from the golf course sprinklers, laughing,
and then Pop’s boots crunching gravel—
the first time I’d seen my father run.
And he too was wet, but also pale as milk,
not laughing, not even in the neighborhood
of a smile,
as I turned the key
and he shoved me from the seat
to drive.

Jason Allen

Jason Allen is a poet and prose writer with an MFA from Pacific University. He is currently living in upstate New York and pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Binghamton University, where he is an editor for Harpur Palate and at work on his first book of poetry, a memoir, and his second novel. His work has been published or is forthcoming in: Passages North, Oregon Literary Review, The Molotov Cocktail, Paterson Literary Review, Spilt Infinitive, Cactus Heart, Pathos, Life With Objects, and other venues. He hopes to one day meet Tom Waits and buy him a cup of coffee.

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