The Cynic in Extremis

by Jacob M. Appel

You could never put one over on my uncle.
He whiffed the treachery in Girl Scouts,
Scoured his returned change for Canadian pennies,
Steered clear of con games like synagogue
And life insurance.
His college education he invested in a tire shop,
Listed in his wife’s name: Who would send
A woman to prison over taxes?
His breath stank of canned tuna.
His politics lacked mercy.
Alger Hiss? Guilty. Julius Rosenberg? Guilty.
Sacco and Vanzetti? More likely than not.
His gut fed on the raw meat of vindication.
One evening a white girl from the college
Came round petitioning for a pair of jailed teens:
Like the Scottsboro Boys? He echoed.
Boys were probably guilty of something.
I visit him in the old veterans’ home.
My aunt is dead. Nobody else will go.
Five-day stubble quills his submerged jaw.
He welcomes me as though I am a Brink’s guard
Serving him a sack of wooden nickels.
Of course, you’ve come, he says,
Slapping his palm against the bedsheet.
You were always a sucker.

from The Cynic in Extremis (Able Muse Press. 2018)

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