“After Track Practice,” “Thumbs Up” and “Sunday Observance”

Poetry by Charles Grosel

“After Track Practice,” “Thumbs Up” and “Sunday Observance”

After Track Practice

After track practice,

shorter by half

for the meet the next day,

you cut through the woods

for the packie on the corner.

It won’t be a wild night.

A few friends, a few beers,

colleges accepted,

grades don’t mean a thing.

When yesterday’s storm

stopped training mid-sprint,

you dreamt of ribbons

too blue to behold,

and suddenly,

the grass is green again

and tiny buds sprout

from black fingers

clutching at the rain.

It smells of earth

and immortality.

Well, not really,

but you hope

I will be impressed,

at least a little,

with the thought.

You exit the woods,

to find an old car

leering from the curb,

stripped to its

undercoat,

rust snaking

around the doors.

How strange to sleep

in a car on such

an afternoon,

you think, when you see

the head thrown back

on the seat,

a dot at the temple.

You are neither

shocked nor afraid,

you tell me later,

when you lean toward

the open window and

see the matte eyes,

the dark stain

on the upholstery.

The left hand grips

what could be a toy

or a starter’s pistol.

No big deal, you insist,

though I wonder if you know

how much you tremble.

Thumbs Up

Dad’s teaching me how to make a whistle

out of an acorn cap. Like this. He leans

over me from behind, his arms clamping

my shoulders like a backpack, straining my neck

till it burns with the weight of his desire

for me to get it right. He takes my two hands

in his two hands, bends my left thumb over

the little French hat. Loosen up, he says,

shaking my thumb like a thermometer,

then repositioning it on the cap.

That’s right, he says. Then he does the same

to the other thumb, pauses, drops his arms,

steps away, spins me to face him with a

surprising urgency. Do this. He bends

his thumb near my face like he’s watering

the lawn. I do the same, with both thumbs, but—

something I’ve never noticed before—the

right thumb doesn’t bend, it stays as flat as

an ice cream spoon. When did that happen? I

wonder, and how? but all Dad says is

No wonder. Then his face darkens; he puts

out his own fists, thumbs up. Uh-huh, he nods,

both thumbs working an imaginary

joystick like the fighter pilot he always

wanted to be and would have been,

but for eyes that couldn’t see red from green

and feet as flat as the soles of his shoes.

Sunday Observance

The sack around your face

enfolded a younger man’s chin,

as if the younger could reemerge

like a snake.

You talked of dying

as if it were far away,

as if we would always peg

Sunday cribbage

in the shadows between innings,

grandfather and grandson,

forgiving each other

his age and infirmity.

You said it wasn’t good

to get old, that old age

was the curse of consciousness.

Yet you talked of dying

As if it were far away.

When death came,

there wasn’t much

left to claim:

a walking ghost,

too weak to fight.

When death came,

you fought anyway,

lungs filled with fluid,

arteries choked with fat,

brain cells bursting

like packing bubbles,

your tottering Judas

betraying you

for a bit of rest

instead of silver.

About the Author

Charles Grosel

An editor, writer, and poet, Charles Grosel lives in Arizona. He has published stories in Western Humanities Review, Red Cedar Review, Water-Stone, and The MacGuffin as well as poems in Slate, The Threepenny Review, Poet Lore, and Harpur Palate, among others. To pay the bills, Charles owns the communications firm, Write for Success.