Michael Flanagan


My mother stayed with my father thirty years. His social life
was the corner bar. She got together every Wednesday and went
to the movies with other neighborhood wives. I never saw my
parents hug, or dance, never saw them share a joke together
or linger over cups of coffee. All his faults seemed to go with
him into the grave, my mother more in love with my father
after he died. Tell me, if your spouse left you how would it feel
knowing you could open any window, make the bed or leave it,
drink gin in the morning, stare at another’s body without
repercussions. I haven’t said a word to my wife in ten years
that hasn’t seemed redundant. Two decades after my father’s
heart failed the final time, my mother has gone. At her wake
three childhood friends come in. Talking to them I remember
the sound of spaldeen balls bouncing off schoolyard walls,
the small torture of trying to win games against one another.
In our teens we drank together, lied about girls, fell in and out
of love, graduated high school, drifted apart. Nostalgia swells
the funeral parlor air as the bald one with glasses, Gregory,
kind even in his youth, says we have to get together more often,
twenty-five years is too long. We four smile in agreement,
none of us probably believing it will happen. Days later,
home in the usual chair, I stare at the television, lost in a scene
from a halfwit episode of some comedy drama I’ve watched
too many times before. On the floor beside me there’s a dream,
an attic garrett full of paint brushes, canvasses, a room above a bar
in Prague, or Amsterdam, Paris, Guam. Besotted by nacho chips
and pizza, I listen to my seventeen year old daughter come in the
front door. The light on the tv screen blinks and I think, no wonder
her and her friends seek the odd comfort fog of weed, no wonder
songs of broken love and rusted things seem far more real. On the
phone later my brother tells me we’ve moved up on the shelf,
orphans in the world, we’re now next in line for the eternal beyond


Michael Flanagan was born in the Bronx, N.Y. Poems and stories of his have appeared in many small press periodicals across the country, most recently in, Nerve Cowboy, Trajectory, Mas Tequila Review, Chiron, Streetlight Press, and The Gravity of the Thing. His chapbook, A Million Years Gone, is available from Nerve Cowboy’s Liquid Paper Press. A full-length collection, Days Like These, was recently published by Luchador Press. It is available from many of the usual online sites, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The poem in this issue, Besotted, appears in the new collection.