He is alone,
with nothing but ghosts to keep him company.
At the dresser, his grandfather, the bartender,
fiddles with his bow-tie —lingering—
perhaps dreading the thought of work,
where, he says, rats scurry all night, under the open floorboards,
just beneath his feet.
In the dim light, his grandmother rocks,
warm in the glow of an ancient space heater.
In her lap, her hands search for solace in the beads,
as she softly says her rosary.
He is only a few feet away,
but he can feel no heat.
The ceiling seems close enough to touch,
The bed hard as stone,
the room so cold
he can see his breath beating,
like a caged bird,
against the still, spent air.
Barry W. North is a seventy-one-year-old retired refrigeration mechanic. He lives with his wife, Diane in Hahnville, Louisiana. Since his retirement in 2007, he has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, won the 2010 A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction, and Honorable Mention in the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, and was a finalist in the 2014 Lascaux Poetry Awards. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paterson Literary Review, Slipstream, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Amoskeag, Sixfold, and many other places. His published chapbooks are Along the Highway, Terminally Human, and In the Maze. For more information please visit his website www.barrynorth.org.