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Short poem

Albert Frank Moritz (1947-)

Conversation with a Widow

              1Uncle Johnny died after rigid years
              2of cutting hair in his shop downtown.
              3Toward the end he cut it badly, breathing
              4a whisky scent into the tonic, talc and
              5glossy male curls piling up on the tiled floor.
              6He died shrivelled, a man who seldom spoke,
              7still with that nickname, Johnny, last
              8taciturn hint of a youth who may have been
              9angry, a lover of women, filled and lightened
            10by vast ocean, the sky over America.
            11He spent his time at home, silent,
            12or sometimes in bars, or on the corner
            13by King's Newsstand with others like himself
            14on sun-baked cement, spitting single words, standing
            15in dark slacks, short-sleeved shirts and suspenders.
            16The tall and narrow-waisted new world
            17had by that time completely rejected suspenders.
            18And after the funeral Mary, his wife, was crying
            19and said to me, "Why is it that the men
            20always die sooner? Do they just give up?"
            21We stood there in the church of our fathers, who
            22explained their own deaths, all death, by an ancient crime.
            23How foolish it would have been to tell you, Mary,
            24something about dioxyribonucleic acid,
            25adaptation of the sexes, effects of the hormones,
            26or social factors, things you'd listen to blankly.
            27Better to say that what we find in ourselves,
            28whatever weakness, we ourselves have put there.
            29Both of us knew enough about men's weakness.
            30Your question didn't need an answer: I
            31simply shrugged and silently, without real hope,
            32asked to be absolved from the fault of men:
            33Powers of earth, give me the male strength
            34that we desire, kindly strength, which protects.
            35Don't make my wife a nurse, helplessly
            36to watch me dying drunk and before her.
            37And do not punish me for pride because
            38I've asked to be so strong: to be the last.


24] dioxyribonucleic acid: DNA, the genetic code.

Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Albert Frank Moritz or the Wolsak and Wynn permissions department.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Ruined Cottage (Toronto: Wolsak and Wynn, 1993): 94-95.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/7/22

Other poems by Albert Frank Moritz