Meryl Natchez

Carnac the Magnificent

Back when marriage was for keeps
my mother-in-law watched Johnny every night.
He came on after the 11 o’clock news, flickering his monologue
onto the desolate late-night air waves as Mabel sat
quilting in her empty living room.
Not much happened in her day
or was likely in the next, her grown son
set against fulfilling his promise,
her husband wheelchaired for life.

But Johnny made her laugh, his
shy, Midwestern corn, his string
of ruinous marriages,
the zany turban and outrageous animals.

One time she knit and sent 
a red acrylic crotch cozy, plumped
with tissue paper, an exercise
that required some imagination as to the size
and shape. I wonder how many of those he got
from women knitting by the light of the TV
in Wichita or Omaha or Bend?
She never heard back.