August Poem 40: Dinner  in the House of Ghosts

The red faced gagging. Calm, you grab him. He

Has chocked before. The crook of your left arm

Between his legs, your palm across his chest.

You lift him tilting his head toward the floor

Resting your arm on your knee. You clap him

On the back with your strong hand. Ears still red.

The side of his cheek turning purple. You

Clap him harder. But you don’t want him hurt.

You ask, “Are you breathing? Are you breathing?”

He turns his head, red faced. He turns his head

And looks you in the eye. His watery

Red eyes. Pleading. But he can’t speak. He just

Reflects back your same fear. You hit him on

The back harder.  He still isn’t breathing.


You hit him harder afraid you might break

His ribs. Then you hit even harder. You

Put your ear next to his mouth and listen.

No breath. Why isn’t it working? His cheeks

Are full. There is something in his mouth. You

Forgot a step. Finger sweep. You reach toward

His mouth and extend a finger. But he

Sees your hand. Thank God. He is still conscious.

He turns his head and spits a wad of chewed

Sausage into your palm. Looks at you and

Smiles, red faced and watery eyed. And

Croaks one ragged breath. Much too short. But breath.

You say, “Are you breathing?” His face purple.

And he says nothing. You turn to listen.


His breath. Nothing. What else? What do you do?

You call out for his mother. You don’t know

Why. You cry out for her. He isn’t able.

You scream for her. Crying because he can’t.

What are you doing? You can’t stop trying.

You have to pick up the phone. Call nine-

one-one. But you can’t leave him. You can’t move.

You cry. Where is his mother? Where is yours?

Death lingers just outside your vision. He’s

Waiting to lend his cold hands. Whispers. And

He’ll call your son’s name. You’ll feel Death’s breath and

You’ll wonder: what kind of devil is Death

To leave a man helpless and on his knees

With a warm wad of chewed meat in his hand?

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