Hard men like you
surrender nothing.
You bend the world.
Hunched in the tiny kitchen.
Pounding your numb right arm
to life again. Counting your money.
But the years worked their reductions,
wearing a keen edge down
to the thin transparency of paper:
you disappeared in the smoke of your inhaler.
This. ain’t. livin’.
Your last trip to the hospital
they tied down your hands,
and still you worked them free enough
to tear out the drips, rip out the foamed
breathing tube, huff
into the grim noon. Now you are ash. It’s winter.
My shoulders hunch into the cold and light.
What have I made of your bitter gift,
you who gave in that harsh way, like taking?
No more than this: bird prints in snow,
and nowhere near enough. We need
so many fathers; receive so few.

Rick Rohdenburg did not begin publishing until past sixty. His work has appeared in the Laurel Review, Raleigh Review, Agave, and others. Now retired, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.