t a x m a n
J O S E P H M I L L A R
Thunder Bob used to drive for Consolidated Freight
before the small bones began to press
against the nerves in his lower back
and his right foot went numb.
Now he slouches in blue suspenders,
forearms propped on a steel desk, doing my taxes.
In the den his wife watches the Simpson trial
and he wants to get me done, squinting down
at last year's forms and muttering, a Chesterfield
burning away between his fingers. You need
more write-offs, he says, peering sideways
through the smoke. Since you can't afford a house,
why not have another kid, eh?
Rain blowing in off the bay rattles the windows
and the branches of the pin oaks moan. He knows
my wife moved out last year. The kids I've got
are waiting, eating cold Chinese by the TV.
You watch, he tells me. Soon they'll start messing
with Social Security. I can hear the lawyers' voices
carping down the airwaves and I think sometimes the rain
will never end. O.J. Simpson? Oliver North?
I dream that a hunched, mudcaked creature
prowls the landscape, entering our homes
while we rest. It leans over us with ragged breath,
the smell of quicklime and swamp water rising,
misting our faces in sleep.
Driving home through the storm,
I think of him leaning against his porch..
Try to kick down more cash
into Retirement, he'd said, bracing himself
on his good foot. Nobody knows for sure
what the hell's going to happen.