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