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‘Uncle Ernest’ and other poems

By: John Ziegler

Uncle Ernest

was a thin man, bent crane-like.

His Adam’s apple

bobbed with his keening harangue.

Also when he laughed.

A bank clerk, he was invested,

AT&T, U.S. Steel.

He died alone in the shower,

discovered by the mail carrier two days later,

the water running cold by now.

He willed the bulk of his estate

to a TV evangelist,

all but the $1000 to my father

and the $1000 to an Indian school in South Dakota,

a place he had visited during the one vacation

of his 40 year banking career.

A holocaust denier,

we argued until he turned crimson,

and slammed out the door.

Decades later,

Indian boarding schools made the news,

their process, their purpose.

Sister Loretta

I was taken with grandmother

to retrieve her sister

dying of cancer in Coatesville.

Sister Loretta, now but a bag of twigs,

curled silently on the wide back seat

of Aunt Maggie’s powder-blue Lincoln.

Bored with the billboards

I asked if the Lincoln could do 90.

In red heels she showed me

it sure could.

I have no recollection of anything else

from that day.

Loretta settled into the high ceilinged dark room

at the top of the stairs,

the dark room

that overlooked row houses.

The heat of August shimmered

from the gray slate roofs,

the aging neighbors waved paper fans

from some recent funeral

at the Lutheran church.

Her belly swelled and tightened

under her strangled bathrobe.

Her voice trailed off, watery and slow,

her vowels tender as egg custard.

She died for weeks

in that room that smelled

of dispair

and White Cloverine Salve.

On a Sunday morning,

I stood dumb by her bed.

Her hand was cool and stiff,

like the bark of a beech tree in winter.


John Ziegler is a poet and painter, gardener and traveler, originally from Pennsylvania, he recently migrated to a mountain village in Northern Arizona. 

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