Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

In the Bathroom Mirror this Morning

by Jeff Walt

new grey hairs in my beard numerous
as scattered headstones, scrutinize my crow’s-feet.
Horrified of the day an orderly will lead me

by a fragile arm down a long, white corridor
in a nursing home called Eden or Camelot or Rainbow House
where even the flies are sick and fall dead

in mid-air and plants, desperate for water, hunch
dry and brittle, attendants forget the red emergency
light at their desk, kick back reading People magazine

as I choke on prunes, frantically
press the call button for help. I know I can’t go back. Of course,
I’ll never be sixteen again, kissing

Robbie Patterson on his single bed, rubbing his erection
through loose sweats, his mom watching Guiding Light
in the next room. Never again the years

I stayed awake all night, red-eyed, drunk, stoned, or both,
slumped over cold coffee in a ripped diner booth
with a man I’d just met on a dance floor

at Stallions, a sudden love that wouldn’t last a week—years fallen
away easily as my hair that clogs this sink. Right now, I want
boyhood, Robbie again, wherever he is, our stupid plans

for happiness, saving coins to run away. All those years
back, not spider veins crawling up my legs, hairs coarse
as fir tree needles growing from my ears, applying

moisturizer and sunscreen and eye gel on my red, middle-age face,
ready for my slow commute through morning fog and darkness
in a dead man’s used suit, tailored, perfectly fit. DJ on the radio

warns an icy storm to batter the coast: blames global warming,
flips on an old pop song so thrilling I remember Moon Dancing—
a world not doomed. Then how I forgot to fill my tank. Not certain

I’ve got enough gas to carry me, to forsake the worried world
and love it, and back into another irresistibly damned dawn.

—Winner of the 2014 Red Hen Press Poetry Award (selected from more than 650 entries), and first published in the Los Angeles Review; appears here with poet’s permission


SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Jeff Walt’s

chapbook, Soot, was co-winner of the 2009 Keystone Chapbook Prize and was published in 2010 by Seven Kitchens Press. Several poems from Soot were scored by composer David Sisco and performed at Carnegie Hall in 2014. Walt has been awarded writing residencies from The MacDowell Colony, The Djerassi Resident Artist Program, The Vermont Studio Center, and Kalani on the The Big Island of Hawaii. His poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Poetry International, Inkwell, Connecticut Review, The Sun, Cream City Review, The Ledge, and The Gay & Lesbian Review, among others.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury