Cold Storage

You want to see your father,

my mother said, as both

a statement of fact and a question.

My brother said no, and I said yes,

after all, I’d flown over 2,000 miles

to be there, and so we waited

outside a gray door

until we were allowed to enter

a larger room than I had imagined

and walked toward a transport trolley

where my father’s refrigerated body

was lying, still and silent,

under a sheet that had been folded

down to his chest, his left arm stiff

in an unnatural position,

his body unprepared for the viewing,

that would happen at a memorial

service. He was to be cremated

and there was no need. You

want to touch him, my mother

said as both a statement of fact

and a question, as she touched

his cheek and I did touch

the top of his head, which I

described later to my brother

as having the sensation

of putting my hand on cold

lunch meat formed over

a bowling ball, which was

exactly the image that came

to mind as I touched his bald

spot. He’s been gone now

for half my life, and when I

think of him today, I don’t

think of that moment

in the way I described it

to my brother. I think of a man,

who came home after WWII

with a war bride and a son,

a man of his generation,

who was the epitome

of the strong silent type.

And I do recall now,

that standing in that room

with my father laid on the trolley,

that it was the deadly silence

that I felt the most.

Terry Allen is an emeritus professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he taught acting, directing and playwriting. He is the author of the chapbook Monsters in the Rain and three full-length poetry collections: Art WorkWaiting on the Last Train, and Rubber Time. His poems have appeared in many journals, including I-70 Review, Third Wednesday, and Popshot Quarterly. In addition, his work has been nominated for an Eric Hoffer Book Award, a Best of the Net Award, and a Pushcart Prize. His books are available at Amazon, Kelsay Books.