The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Eric Chiles

The angry donut


isn't cream filled.
Like a true fasnacht
it lacks a sugary
coating. It's lean
like a vegetarian
craving bacon.
It's a jackpot
with no zeroes
after one,
a compliment
after the slap.



Eric Chiles



We thought he'd live forever.
He thought so too - and predicted
he'd reach at least 102. He liked
even numbers, half for you,
half for him, no arguments,
except in tennis where he'd crush
a serve to reach 45, having kept
you at love for an entire set.
He was one tough old dude who
had trouble getting matches
in the city B league when he hit
his eighties. No one wanted to play
the frail looking white-haired gramp,
but he'd use finesse and drop
shots to frustrated opponents
decades younger. He wore a T-shirt
with the slogan, "Age and treachery
beat youth and speed every time."
But the cough wouldn't go away,
and his hack of a doctor misdiagnosed
cancer as persistent bronchitis.
It was like someone trying to break his service,
the set stuck at deuce, so at 88 with
his usual bravado, he had the surgeon
remove 40 percent - nice even number
- 0f his left lung. To him it was just
another adventure, but rehab was
a bitch, and blowing into the breath
gauge was tougher than dispatching
some sixty-something kid on the court.
Caution shadowed his certainty.
Walking to the mailbox for the daily
conservative cries for his cash
left him breathless. Too much sitting
knotted up his guts. Ironic that an
impacted bowel sent him to the OR
a second time - the guy who preached
intestinal fortitude and bragged
he had never puked and never would.
Now 90, in pre-op he was buoyant,
looking forward to another grudge
match with death, certain his faith
would pull him through. They resected
a length of the duodenum, stuffed
like a sausage, and put in a colostomy port.
The indignity, smell, and staples
zippering shut his gut made his eyes
glower when he demanded a sip of Seven-Up.
Instead of burping to release the gas,
he held it in, cheeks bulging, bursting
his stitches. After four agonizing,
drug-dulled days, sepsis killed him.




ERIC CHILES is an award-winning former career journalist who teaches journalism and writing courses at a number of colleges in the Lehigh Valley area of eastern Pennsylvania. He holds a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. His poem, "The orchid garnish," won the 2015 Cape Cod Writers Center poetry contest. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Allegro, Asses of Parnassus, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, Tar River Poetry, and Third Wednesday.



Previous  |  Next