Dudley Randall Poetry Prize Winner (2nd Prize), 2022
I think that will be it. Just rub the chip, sometimes the card gets fussy…there it is. Thanks. Hey, can I get a couple of napkins? Also, my dad is dead. Like just now, dead. We pulled him off a vent–it wasn’t Covid related, so don’t worry, although he was on a designated Covid floor so I apologize for handing you plastic that could be Covid affected. Do you give discounts to those who recently lost someone? Like 15 minutes ago, someone died in your arms so here’s a free donut type thing? I like y’alls donuts–especially the Timbits. Not that I’m pandering to you for free stuff. I understand you have to treat everyone fairly, and that there are a ton of other people behind me who haven’t lost anyone or maybe they have, or they’re having a great day, but regardless, everyone needs to stop and acknowledge my grief. And I know it seems weird that I’m ordering an iced coffee in the middle of a Michigan winter-like ‘my car hasn’t even fully heated up and I’m peeking out of the small crevice of the cleared windshield because I am that guy’ kind of cold, but I just needed that thing to clutch on to and iced coffee was it. I had shit coffee in the hospital and now I at least want familiar shit coffee. And make no mistake, that’s not your fault. The shit coffee, I mean. Not my dad’s death. Though that wasn’t your fault either. Did you know his last words were double-A batteries? Who says that? I guess I was expecting some sort of rage against the dying of the light sort of thing, but you want what you want and say what you say in those moments. Well, anyway, Kelsey, you’re doing a great job. Here–take my debit card and pay for everyone else behind me. It expires in 3 days, so live it up in the meantime, right? Bad choice of words?
About the poem:
On January 29, 2022, I lost my father. His loss hit me with grief I had never felt before. I sat in my car making phone calls to inform various people of the situation and to let them know I was not going to be present for rehearsals or meetings. When that was complete, I sat in my freezing car, not wanting to move, filled with a mixture of grief and resentment.
The resentment is largely what inspired the work. I watched the world around me keep spinning–people were still walking in the hospital for various appointments and visitations, the restaurant across the street was serving lunch, and none of it felt fair. I wanted the world to stop and acknowledge my grief, even though I knew that it would not bring back my dad. Worse, I couldn’t just sit in a car that had not been defrosted, inhaling freezing air. I had to keep going.
And that’s part of the absurdity of the whole grief process: having to move on in a world that is unaware. The dishes still have to be done, the pets fed, etc. It pains you not to be able to just tell a random person, going about their life, the terribleness you’ve suffered. Instead, you are required to keep up appearances (at least in public) and compartmentalize these feelings.
There is a Tim Horton’s across the street from Wyandotte Hospital. I immediately hopped in the drive-thru to get myself an iced coffee because I needed some sense of normalcy. I exchanged brief pleasantries with the young woman working at the window as if nothing had happened, because, to her nothing did.
This monologue is inspired by that exchange. It’s tongue-in-cheek humor I know my dad would appreciate and to that end, it is meant to be read in a casual tone, as if this event was just another part of the day, because, in some ways, it really is.