Memory of an Uncle (Isidore Propper, Capt., NYPD, d. 1986)

UNCLE IZZY: NORTH MIAMI BEACH, JULY 1986

Uncle Izzy, ninety-five,
looked at me through blue eyes
gone the color of blood-spotted egg whites,
hands trembling, his parchment skin
loose-wrapped around his bones, ill cover
for his organs against the coming wind.
It’s Kenny! my aunt screamed at him, it’s Kenny,
your nephew, it’s Jack and Lillian’s boy!

Still the eyes stared, in search of remembrance.
I don’t know, I don’t know, he said,
not in pain for a memory lost (he remembered
bodyguarding the fighter Jack Sharkey
in `32, but could not remember
yesterday’s lunch) but to state a truth.
Whoever you are, sir, he said at last,
you are a gentleman. And I, ever the
literateur, recalled Blanche DuBois
and her dependence on the kindness of
strangers: for that is what time
and the black hole of my uncle’s dying
made of me, a stranger to all memories
but my own, in middle age now recalled
as Jack and Lillian’s boy:

who, after three hours, kissed my aunt and uncle,
fled the condo facing the Jordan-Marsh, rushed
into the July cauldron of Biscayne Boulevard;
drove my rented car north on US 1,
soundproofed, sheltered from the heat
by synthetic air. At the car rental desk
at Fort Lauderdale, I paid the bill,
and paused to flirt with Ms. Mendoza the agent,
glad for someone young, alive, and not me.

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