THE ONLY LIGHT COMING IN
Once I got a haircut north of San Francisco
after an earthquake had knocked out
all the power in a strip mall, one
stylist open for business,
the only light coming in
from the windows,
twilight inside as we talked,
and she told me
she had Hodgkin’s disease,
but sometimes felt better,
and that she lived alone on a houseboat
with a fierce German shepherd,
her cutting my hair, alone in the shop
completely accepting her hands
and her small re-positionings of my head,
and I don’t remember how
we got to that point, but she said,
there’s a couch in the manager’s office,
but I can’t close the store
midday, or I will lose my job.
And when my wife came in to pick me up
the two of us started
as though we were lying on that couch
or I’d asked when she would be home.
IN LATE AFTERNOON
after his first congestive heart failure,
I found my father asleep in his bedroom,
no longer theirs, my mother sleeping
in a room down the hall,
his breathing bubbling gurgles, the musky scent
of him overpowering in near dark
shade of oleanders and bottle brush
he’d planted for privacy the year he bought the house.
Sweat saturated a towel on pillows under him
propping him up so he wouldn’t drown.
The damage of childhood he drank to numb
and the toll of drinking become one thing
less important over time, like the name of a town
where you grew up, a car you once owned.
Joseph is one of a handful of writers that lives in Nashville, Tennessee that does not play a musical instrument; although a friend once asked him to bring his harmonica on a camping trip so they could throw it in the fire. His wife says he cannot leave a room without finding out something about everyone in it, and telling her their stories later. Joseph has a BS degree in psychology from Stanford University. His work has been published in Inlandia, Gyroscope, The Tiny Journal, Sheila-Na-Gig, Penultimate Peanut, and is forthcoming in Seven Circle Press, The Bookends Review, Poetry City, Reality Break Press, Glass Mountain, Funicular Magazine, Kind Writers, Pub House Books, and Crack the Spine Literary Magazine.