Cousin Scott on His Liver

Anders Carlson-Wee

in memory of Scott Christopher Maxwell, 1961—2007

Ma's always on me about my diet. Always on me
about the heart attack and the stomach acid
and the diabetes. And if it aint one thing
it's a goddamn nother. So what if my liver gave out?
So what if I got the diabetes? So what if the doctor says
not even a sip? If a grown man wants to sit back
and crack a cold one that's his own Han Solo.
But Ma can't leave it alone. Can't stop prayin for me.
Always sayin she wants to see her one and only son
in heaven. And I keep tellin her: Ma, you can see me
right now! Feast your eyes! It aint my fault I aint
Christian. I'd be the first man up the believin pole
if there was somethin to believe in. Ma's always
tryin to drag me down to church with her.
And the thing is, I aint goin. She couldn't drag
my ass down there if I was a sack and she was a dragger.
If the Lord wants me he can come and get me.
I aint hidin. I aint got no sheet over me.
But Ma's settin man-traps every Sunday
now that she knows I'm gonna go before her.
It aint no big secret: I'm a dead man. Sure, I'll shit
and piss for a few more years, but there's no fixin
a liver. Now all Ma wants to wonder is if
I'll be up there dancin when she gets there.
And the thing that knocks my cock around
is how she never doubts her own goddamn grace,
never doubts she'll slide through them pearly gates.
So I'm always teasin her, always askin:
Are the animals up there, Ma? Are the plants?
Are the Neanderthals? I bet the whole goddamn planet's
up there. I bet when you get there you don't even know
you're there, cept for all the Neanderthals walkin around.
I bet it's like goin home to your folks's place
years after you gone and moved out—
everything's the same, and everybody's there,
and you're there, and there's that moment 
when you first walk in and you smell what the house
smells like. You know what I'm talkin about.
Straight away you know that smell. You know it
better than you know your own goddamn face.
And you know you aint never smelled it
no place else. Not in all these years. Not whiff-one
And the smell rushes at you and fills you up.
And the only thought you can think is how in the dry dive
did I survive all this time without it?