My Old Man Loves Fried Okra

David Bottoms

BPR 39 | 2012

My old man's tired. He tries to follow the small talk of the woman
who's brought dinner, but his head nods toward his chest.

My old man won't say so, but he's beat, sapped, worn out.
He tries to track the talk of the woman from his church,

but her words fall out of the air like sick birds,
and his eyelids grow heavy, and his head nods toward his chest.

This woman, this kind woman from Heritage Baptist,
has brought fried chicken, potatoes, a bowl of fried okra.

My old man loves fried okra — the smell of it, the taste of it,
the slight crunch between the teeth.

He eats it at lunchtime, at dinner. Hot from the pan,
cold from the fridge. He eats it with his fingers, like popcorn.

But his eyelids droop again and his head drops slowly
until his elbow slips off the arm of his chair.

This is what frightens me. How can he be too tired for thanks,
too tired to lift his head for the one simple word

he'd want to say? How can he be too tired for okra?