By Stacy Nathaniel Jackson

Long distance, my mother & I discuss
my father's withered state. I tell her,
who knows why he has given up—

seventy years old, blue terry cloth
robe all day, draped around
once square, now droopy
black shoulders, inhaling Marlboros,
sipping vodka & Tropicana for breakfast,
dismissing diabetes & blood
transfusions as a book of myth,
& outside under a faded patio umbrella,
Los Angeles Times crossword
puzzles keep the brain awake
though evening falls face down—

Somehow he settled
    unquiet routine—

My "self-actualized"
middle-aged voice continues
    telling her: all I know is you can't fix it

really, what is there to fix
his "retired" life turned to mulch
like red plums rotting in the yard
after summer, unattended.