The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Megan Collins

My grandfather only wore brown

 

Even as he greets
death, he is dressed in a suit
the same Hershey shade

as the candy bar
tucked into his breast pocket.
People smile, peering

at the snack we’ve snuck
into his casket. They don’t
think how it killed him,

how the thing he loved
was a poison to his blood.
They just note that now

he enters those gates
savoring the taste he lost
to his enemy—

age. “Don’t ever get
old,” he always warned. He vowed
each Christmas that it

would be his last. But
he made it to ninety-three.
He saw war, saw death,

then returned back home
to saw wood in his basement,
revising the work

that his country had
demanded of his hands. No
guns anymore, just

gifts—little houses
for my mother, a little
doll’s armoire for me.

He wanted nothing
for his labor, even turned
down his Purple Heart.

He scoffed on birthdays
when we handed him presents,
swore they all would go

“on the pile”—a phrase
that outlives him, that we will
say at holidays,

each of us laughing,
each of our throats growing tight.
In the end, he said

so little, but all
his life, he loved so hard. We
feel it in his pre-paid

funeral, in the people
who file into the pews, whose
lives we hadn’t known

he’d touched. Now, blessing
the coffin, we watch him go
down into the ground,

the Hershey bar on
his chest the only medal
we knew he’d allow.

 

 

 

MEGAN COLLINS holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she was a teaching fellow. She currently teaches creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She is also the Managing Editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and two-time Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many journals, including Linebreak, Spillway, Rattle, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. (www.megan-collins.com)

 

 

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