Mike Ayles, 1962-1979


His face hung in wrinkled folds

even when we were seventeen,

and crows’ feet danced at his eye

when he squinted to smile.


In the park at night, over pilfered whiskey,

he said he could see where things wind up,

how young men turn old,

and memories smoke up with wishes.


One day you’re young, he said,

the next you talk in raspy whispers,

your body turns into a map

back to the beginning.


In a car in a ditch, he became as old

the oldest man in the world:

Son of somebody, brother of whomever,

no wife, no offspring, no chance to vote.


Not even remembered, really, but by people like me,

who hear him all along here—yelps and howls.

Steps—leather on concrete in the rain—

stumble up alleys, play along the curb.


Published by

Patrick Dobson

Patrick Dobson was founded in 1962. He is a writer, scholar, ironworker, and poet who lives in Kansas City, MO. He is author of two books with the University of Nebraska Press, Seldom Seen: A Journey into the Great Plains (2009) and Canoeing the Great Plains: A Missouri River Summer (May 2015). Dobson is a work in progress until termination.

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