I returned there for the last time
a number of years ago and I remember it
so clearly. Nothing had changed:
not the statues or Civil War cannon
in the town square, not the VFW hall,
the small café serving fried frog’s legs
for lunch, the small courthouse with the stone
columns, not the silos on the horizon
or the scent of fresh manure from in the distance.
I had gone there to see him for the last time
in the home. His voice sounded the same,
he cussed just as much and was as opinionated
as he ever was, and still loved the Cubs.
But he wasn’t as I had remembered him.
He was thin now, no more beer belly,
and his glasses seemed large on his face.
He covered his bald and liver-spotted head
with a Greek fisherman’s hat.
He was stuck in a wheel chair, and from the way
his hands trembled you would not have known
that this was a man who once did battle
with mighty Northern Pike and Muskellunge,
hunted deer and moose and elk.
Like me, he relied on a number of pills,
mostly for his heart, to keep him going every day.
Like this town he was born in, he was old and tired
and somewhat quiet. The world had somehow
passed him by these last few years. Many of his
school mates were there in the same home, and sad,
they has lost most of their memories. Some were married
to each other and didn’t even remember it.
He told me he was so afraid of ending up like them.
He said he would rather pass on than be that way,
that he knew he could make himself do it if he wanted.
One day the call came from home, and I knew in my heart
that he had done it, just like he said he could.
His fishing net and tackle box stand alone in the corner
of my library now, and his fishing hat hangs from my gun
rack. They and my memories are all that is left of a man
and a town that I will never lay eyes on again.