Going Down the Road* – by Betsy Mars

For Uncle Hank

How many times have I had too many drinks
to drown, the cold
liquid numbing
until I slump over

my desk, not the bathtub – as you did—
heart stopped. How much had you had
had enough   had too much   had it

to bring that big body down, to quiet
that beating?

They jolted you alive and you hung on,
tethered, machines beeping, beeping,
keeping you in a rhythm of your own.

You (I imagine since I can’t see you)
3000 miles of land between us
(and hospital protocol besides)
never had much patience for rules.

I am trying to hover above you, to see
what’s left— so sudden did this come.

From your phone came the unexpected voice
which told me all before words could.

You were my summer brother, three months younger.
I blame our genes and that man you called Dad,
I called Grandpa.

Anyway, this isn’t about him.
Even dead, he still takes up too much room.

I think you must take up no space at all now
where you are (or soon will be),
dancing with your big gray cat, Rudy.

Your mom is there with her perfectly-coiffed hair,
her quick wit cutting any umbilical cord
tying you to the earth.

Jerry Garcia is surely waiting, with his phantom finger
picking every string in all the notes
you wrote in the best corner of your mind,

his gruff voice beckoning you to come along:
the road isn’t paved with gold, but it’s infinitely long.

* From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” (also known as the “Lonesome Road Blues”) is a traditional American folk song. The first known known recording is from 1923 by Henry Whitter, an Appalachian singer.[1][2] … The song has been recorded by many artists such as Woody GuthrieBob DylanSkeeter Davis, and the Grateful Dead, and the song is featured in To Bonnie from Delaney, “Mountain Jam“, Born and Raised World TourThe Grapes of Wrath, and Lucky Stars.

B MarsBetsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, publisher, photographer, and cat wrangler. She is an editor at Gyroscope Review. Recent poetry publications include ONE ART, Anti-Heroin Chic, and The NewVerse News. Her photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Redheaded Stepchild, and Spank the Carp, among others. Her chapbook, In the Muddle of the Night, was co-authored with Alan Walowitz.