Fifty Years

Grandpa’s weird boney fingers kept
Pinching corn chips from
the middle of the table,
his bronze compass rose
air medal bobbing on the
brown fibers of his aloha shirt
as he ladled hot sauce into his mouth
because he burned all his taste buds off
with cigarettes when he was younger
and spicy foods are all he can taste
and he laughs throatily at something my Uncle Sudduth says
in his thick and raspy Oklahoman tone
his eyelids crinkling in around his dull turquoise pupils
and his jaw pistoning up and down awkwardly
and I can’t remember his first name.

I walked past the kitchen earlier and overhead a server
talking about doing cocaine and having a threesome
and it did make me stop for a moment,
to look over at Grandpa amidst our little family reunion
squished behind other crowded tables
as waiters dressed in white crisscrossed
through the thrumming restaurant,
warm and loud with talking people
who sung all of the other colors
and I wondered if
death becomes less terrifying at my grandfather’s age
or if I’ll be a good person by that time
and I became upset that the waiter
would talk about such things next to my family
even if the sound of my grandfather’s laugh
sounds nothing like mine,
the phlegm and the shape of his beaten old neck
funneling his deep croaking laugh
into a sound impossible for me to make.