to the Swedish dinner we’ve prepared
for him: oatcakes to go with the buttermilk
soup she says his mother used to make,
pork roast stuffed with prunes and it is
pre-cigarette-ban-ok when he extracts
a cigar from his breast pocket; I was still
smoking Kents, then, myself.
He is a burley ex-sailor who doesn’t eat
lamb because he smelled the tropical-ripe
sides that sailors transported
up the gang-plank
from New Zealand during the war.
He nods and chortles with a sparkle
in his eyes when he listens or talks
but when his car won’t start
on this cold winter night,
he stretches his neck repeatedly like
an obstreperous camel.
Other nights we play pinochle
at their suburban apartment until dawn,
once when we walked to Belmont and
Broadway in Chicago for an eggs
and bacon breakfast. When they marry
we are back in Australia so send a telegram,
“You deserve each other.”
Our friendship is strained
when the rotogravure
union that Jim is president of goes on strike
resisting new technology which lasts
for years. They change their answering
machine message to say, “Please support
Tribune Local 7 by not buying the Sunday
paper,” one of our pleasures in life.
When we move to Rochester, New York,
and they visit us, we play pinochle again,
but Jim is tipping the Chivas Regal bottle
frequently and, as my partner, he criticizes
every card I play, so I say, “I don’t care
if you are a disappointed old man…,”
so they leave unexpectedly early
the following morning.
Our son wakes up and asks, “Where’s
Since 1998, Jan Ball has had 215 poems accepted or published in the U.S., Canada, India and England. Published poems have appeared in: Atlanta Review, Calyx, Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Nimrod, Phoebe and many other journals. Poems are forthcoming in: By&By, Caveat Lector, The Courtship of Winds, Medical Encounter, The Sacred Cow and Straylight. Her poem, "my face emerges from my face," was second runner-up in the Spring 2010 contest issue of So to Speak. Her poem "carwash," won the 2011 Betsy Colquitt Award for the best poem in a current issue of Descant, Fort Worth. Her two chapbooks, Accompanying Spouse (2011) and Chapter of Faults (2014), have both been published by Finishing Line Press and are available on Amazon. She is a member of The Poetry Club of Chicago.