The Centenarian

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The Centenarian


My uncle had a face         as kind
and fleshy           as the cattle he raised

He will be, would be         was           I’ll never know what to say
100 years old         on Friday

May 29, 1915 — May 29, 2015           with just death
in between           When we fished

he hooked a chain           around his waist
and mine           because

he could not swim           and did not want me
toddling off         into deep waters

I have a photo of him           holding up a catfish
the size of a log           He made the paper           with that

At 80, he took up           hollerin’         pacing
bean rows           and bellerin’ like a cow

in labor           and what he got out
I don’t know           but community mental health

and pills fixed him           till he died
at 90—down with pneumonia and a bad back           he left me

and my brothers           money, land, two houses
four barns, a tractor, truck         quilts and bedsteads         secrets

scalers, scrapers      and catfish skinners           nails
hammers         tackle and poles           hell,         he left

everything           as one does
when the leavin’ is stronger           than human chains.

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