End-game Small-talk

Jim Daniels

Image of Jim Daniels

Jim Daniels

End-game Small-talk was selected as part of MSU Library Short Edition's call for submissions on the theme of "Home," in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum's exhibition "Where We Dwell." Jim Daniels’ latest book of poems is Gun/Shy, Wayne State University Press, 2021. Other recent books include his fiction collection, The Perp Walk, and his anthology, RESPECT: The Poetry of Detroit Music, co-edited with M. L. Liebler, both published by Michigan State University Press). A native of Detroit, he lives in Pittsburgh and teaches in the Alma College low-residency MFA program.

My oldest friend has a cold, and his mother
is dying. I might be catching it over the phone.

The cold, I mean. My mother? Also dying.
Anything on TV to cure a cold? A child riding

a bike up a hill paused when he called. Sentimental
tale—wise grandfather, tough, single mom.

His mother's forgotten his name, and the many names
of death. My mother is blind, but sees it coming.

We are the same age for one day each year: June 7.
We call each other for luck, for answers to the test

we're both failing. Briefly on the same page
without instructions. A shadow passes my window

blurry through glass block. Next time we talk,
it'll be about somebody's mother's funeral.

Nevertheless, when are you coming home,
he wants to know. A handyman now after

losing his bar. I'd hire him if he weren't
300 miles away. Mold stains my wall

behind the TV. We lived in basements across the street
from each other on Detroit's serrated edge amid semi-

regular floods. Our parents crammed kids into tiny
box houses, one after another. Our mothers,

best friends for forty years, stopped speaking.
That's water in the basement now, and we're

living upstairs with our own kids. Happy Birthday,
a day early, by the way. Harder to shake a cold

these days. I turn off the TV—I trust the boy will get
up that hill. If Jesus walked on water,

he didn't do it in a basement on Rome Street.
He got out the mop like the rest of us.

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