James Lineberger



bobby and me went to high school
together but over the years
we drifted apart and i hadnt seen him in oh
i dont recall exactly but it was a long
time ago one christmas
in the seventies when he was playing santa claus
at the mall
so when his wife died i didnt go to the funeral
or give bobby a call or anything
just let it pass out of mind until i saw in the paper
where he was home from the hospital
after a heart attack which
well i guess it got to me finally and the next time
i came up to his house i just pulled
the car over and went and knocked on the door
knowing he was there
because i could see him through the picture window
but when he answered he didnt
seem to recognize me at first just stood there until
i said its me bobby
and i let out then
with the cry of the wild rhino which was what
him and me used to do in chemistry
class in the tenth grade when miss fisher had her back to us
and she would whirl around
mad as a wet hen saying who did that who did that
you better answer me and everybody
in the lab would do
the rhino all at once until miss fisher started crying
and went for the principal yeah
bobby said i be damn how you been come on in
and he led me back to the den
where you could hardly walk around because he had the whole room filled
with santa claus stuff he had collected
big santas and little santas
santa nodders kewpie santas and music boxes
and windup santas
and coca cola ones and santa light bulbs and from all over
from russia and germany and poland
austria every whichaway
jesus bobby i said
it must have took you all
your life to get this together this is
if this was on that auction program on tv i never
would have dreamed it was you
well i never showed it much bobby said and my wife
hated it made me keep it up in the attic
what she liked was little glass animals but the past couple months i been thinking
what the hell
she aint here now is she
so i put took all her animals to the basement and brought the santas
down here in the place of them only
when i try to arrange things so they will look
their best
some of them want to be here and some there
they all got their favorite places now
and it is just about
beyond me what to do with the whole fucking mess
and then out of nowhere
bobbys face scrooched up and he broke
into tears and just sat there spraddle legged on the floor
with his shoulders
shaking and all these different expressions
passing over him until
all of a sudden he strained his face up toward the ceiling and let out with
the cry of the wild rhino loud
and booming but still bawling him and rhino all
mixed together
and he said go on get
outa here you fuck think im crying about her im not im not
its about how i wasted my whole life
how could i do such a thing collecting all this shit
like whats it worth when theres nobody left
to even argue with
and if miss fisher was still alive i would pay her a visit right now
and get down and kiss her feet
for all the crimes i did when i was a child
because you know what she told me one time when i was trying
to help her find her car keys
she said bobby you are not really a mean
person i can see it in your eyes
and if it wasnt for the roughnecks you run around with
you could be famous
like edward g robinson when he found the magic bullet


JAMES LINEBERGER is a retired screenwriter. His poetry has appeared in Boulevard, The Cortland Review, Texas Review, The Main Street Rag, UCity Review, Natural Bridge, Pembroke Magazine, Quarter Past Eight, Free State Review, and New Ohio Review.


Read more by James Lineberger:

Poem in Boulevard
Poem in The Cortland Review
Poem in Blackmail Press
Poem in three candles