Our Friend Karl

Mark DeFoe

“Why should I call your name/when I know you’re to blame/for making me blue”
Wasted Days and Wasted Nights
– Freddy Fender

Truth was, his life was like our own, rich with
cliché and heart-numbing sorrow. He went
too far or often never far enough.

He could not workup enough self-torture
or good old guilt to shame himself,
for every time he’d feel that need for action,
he’d find it all a bit boring. He’d succumb
to this or that, either or neither, side-tracked
by some shiny bauble in the distance, some
whacko semi-scam, some weird science, some
celebrity morsel that would tease his palate.

He supposed his malady was chemical, but
could never dial that well-recommended shrink,
assuming the doc would echo his dad,
who always said, “Straighten up and fly right.”

He went on, delightful dinner guest, we agreed,
but in the end, unable to buy himself
a cemetery plot, unsure if he
had heard above the party’s roar, the last call.

We found him in his last apartment. dead in bed.
Beside him were piles of books, festooned
and feathered with clever book marks, telling
how far he had to read to reach the end.

Mark DeFoe is Professor Emeritus at West Virginia Wesleyan College . His work has appeared in chapbooks, anthologies, and journals, including Poetry, Paris Review, Sewanee Review, Denver Quarterly, Reed, South Carolina Review, Santa Fe Review, Smartish Pace, and many more.

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