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Louie Crew: Two Poems
What is Ours | Telling

What is Ours?

After he had made his dad's bed,
had lotioned his dad's buttocks
         to prevent bed sores,
and had stared lovingly
         into the blank, gray
         unseeing eyes,
he went to
         "The Merry Wives of Windsor"
to escape for two hours
         the old age and dying.

But when Falstaff was trundled off
         in the laundry basket,
it was his dad's laugh,
         memorized when he had been 2 or 3,
which he recognized as his own,
         echoing through the theatre.


My hand keeps hitting the subtotal,
as if by design,
though each time seems an accident.

Last week, for a lark, I said to a student,
"Son, this comma should go over there,"
and he did not blink as he emended.
Suddenly I realized that his dad could be 5-8 years
my junior. I had thought him and me fellow bachelors.

Dad called Thursday to complain
that Mother twice last week
arose at 2 or 3 a.m. to cook supper.
Fifty years ago she was head bookkeeper at the bank.

Even after I jog seven miles in the snow,
sometimes my arthritic index finger
can't steady a pencil.

A sociologist I read last summer
gives me only 8 more days of middle age
—"Young, 21-32; Middleaged, 33-44; Old, 45+"—
arbitrary trifurcation of the laboring years.

It's not the novelty but the frequency of "S" that troubles.
For years and years after I balded early, at 23,
I got only very infrequent subtotals. Just now,
they plop up almost daily, as I soak in the tub
         or drowse through the news.

Of course, the really scary diacritic is not "S" but "T".

Poet's Biography:
Louie Crew, 63, is a native of Anniston, Alabama, and is the author of 1,346 published poems and essays, many under his Chinese identity, Li Min Hua. An English professor at Rutgers university, he has edited special issues of College English and Margins. His poetry books include Sunspots (Lotus Press), Midnight Lessons (Samisdat), and Lutibelle's Pew (Dragon Disks). From 1983 - 1987, he lived in exile in Asia. His papers are collected by the University of Michigan. He and Ernest Clay, husbands for the past 26 years, live in Orange, New Jersey.

Of "Telling" he writes: "In the poem the adding machine is a metaphor of how we become aware of our aging: while we age at a steady pace of one minute at a time, we find out the subtotal at irregular intervals, as when we see our bald spot for the first time, or a wrinkle where one had not been."

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