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My job, maintenance 
on graveyard shift so I’m up 
a stepladder at 3AM replacing 
ballasts in fluorescent fixtures.
A radio is spraying bubblegum pop 
when suddenly some sober jackass 
in newscaster voice is explaining why God 
wants us to launch nuclear weapons. 

This is it. I’ll be vaporized 
right here on this stepladder 
in this godawful factory.

I want to jump in my car 
speed to our cottage, to you, 
to die breast to breast. 

And then a kid about 18 
with a push broom below me 
sees the panic in my face up above 
and laughs: “It’s the crappy radio, 
jumps stations. That’s the God show. 
You all right?” 

I say “I just realized— It matters 
where we die. And with whom.”
The kid laughs, makes air quotes. 
“With whom, Professor Handyman?”
Yes. With whom.

I remember this now from bubblegum to Armageddon
as I say goodbye via Zoom to Aunt Nattie 
all tubed up in a hospital bed, Covid,
closest we can come as her oxygen drops
with no one breast to breast. 
She dies with whom? 
Alone, with Zoom.


Joe Cottonwood repairs homes for money and writes poems for reasons he can’t explain. He lives under redwood trees in La Honda, California dodging wildfires and playing with grandchildren. His most recent book is Random Saints.

© 2021, Joe Cottonwood

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