At the Flamingo Road Publix,
into my grandfather
whom I haven’t talked to in years
rolling his cart down
the frozen food aisle.
as he wriggles his small hand
in his pocket,
and I’m overwhelmed
by the baton of memory:
those gristle-gray afternoons
in the room on the side of his house
decorated with egg cartons,
me with my trombone slide
scything through the air.
How he wouldn’t talk
for hours as he hummed the melody
I missed. His arms sexless and bent
my legs stinging
from red smacks of baton for each note
But now, he looks so frail as he puts a bag
of frozen peas into his cart,
to remember my name:
Is it Charlie?
No, not Charlie, not Jonathan, I reply.
heavy and slippery in his mouth like river stones.
Not that. Not that.
When I return home, I tell my wife
I saw my grandfather at the store.
How is he?, she asks.
I tell her he seemed happy,
that he looked good for his age.
That night, I rummage
through my closet,
find my fusty-smelling trombone,
then throw it out
one part at a time.
Jean-Luc Fontaine’s poetry has appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Apalachee Review, and elsewhere. He currently attends the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in New York with the aid of instant coffee.