“Shall We Gather at the River?”, “No Exit” and “Circulation”

Shall We Gather at the River?

Shall We Gather at the River?

The plastic hospital curtain
segregated our miseries
like a reluctant stream.
On my side of the deluge
I lay in bed, testing the waters.

My roommate waded
wraith-like around the divider,
skeletal legs protruding
under his hospital gown.
He looked past me

through the window toward
the forest preserves across the street.
His speaker phone jack-
hammered against the beige
shoals of our sterile fraternity

like a pneumatic drill against
river pilings as he raged against
the nurses and the hospital,
“Look for my body on the
banks of the Des Plaines River.”

This wasn’t the baptism
I was seeking, the resurrection
I aspired to. Wanting to escape,
I beseeched the nurses,
“I fear the flood that’s coming.”

No Exit

The 30 foot Lincoln
stretch limo idles
at the corner.

The chauffeur puffs
on his cigarette.
He’s moved around

the country all his life,
an army brat.
Now he works

part-time on
the weekends.
He’s taking a bunch

of buddies out for a
night on the town.
The engine hums

while his friends
wait for him
in a nearby bar.

He nods without listening
as a homeless man
panhandles him again.

Crushing the cigarette
butt under his boot heel,
he locks all the limo doors

with his wireless fob,
tosses a torn dollar in
the offering cup.


He opens the front door
to let in fresh air as
lightning flashes fracture
the dark tree-shadowed lawn.

Four years rumble through
his memory, echoing long
thoughts about his brother.
He liked this kind of weather.

Thunder rattles through
the screens of open windows,
daring him to close them.
A late storm batters

the shingled roof,
blows his angry
tears across the porch.
Moths flare up

against the porch light
seeking refuge. Tired after
grieving his brother, he closes
the door, locks the windows.

About the Author

Frank Modica

Frank C Modica is a retired public school special education teacher living in Urbana, Illinois. He taught students with special needs for 34 years. Since his retirement he volunteers with a number of arts and social service organizations in his community. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in Slab, Heyday Magazine, Cacti Fur Magazine, The Tishman Review, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Pegasus, and Black Heart Magazine.

Read more work by Frank Modica.