Proust’s Madeleine


Somebody has given my

Baby daughter a box of

Old poker chips to play with.

Today she hands me one while

I am sitting with my tired

Brain at my desk. It is red.

On it is a picture of

An elk’s head and the letters

B.P.O.E.—a chip from

A small town Elks’ Club. I flip

It idly in the air and

Catch it and do a coin trick

To amuse my little girl.

Suddenly everything slips aside.

I see my father

Doing the very same thing,

Whistling “Beautiful Dreamer,”

His breath smelling richly

Of whiskey and cigars. I can

Hear him coming home drunk

From the Elks’ Club in Elkhart

Indiana, bumping the

Chairs in the dark. I can see

Him dying of cirrhosis

Of the liver and stomach

Ulcers and pneumonia,

Or, as he said on his deathbed, of

Crooked cards and straight whiskey,

Slow horses and fast women.

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