Follies of 1936

Asheville, North Carolina
It would be hours before housekeeping
came and found Scott in the bathroom,
his pajama bottoms somewhere
under him, his upper half in a body cast
from when he broke his right shoulder
a few weeks earlier in a high dive
intended to impress Zelda,
and which he realized, halfway down,
was a terrible idea, especially later
as he sat in the hospital and watched
one arm being set above his head
in a sort of showy backstroke that now
prevented him from doing
the simplest of tasks. He knew there
was enough time to think of a funny,
plausible story as to why he had fallen,
time to write long letters in his head
to Scottie, Zelda, and Max, and describe
the stylish window the doctor made
around his abdomen so that Scott
could reach inside with wire
of various lengths and relieve the itching
when it grew too warm, time to recall
a late-spring party he attended
in Paris, when it seemed like everyone
he met that night had handed him
their calling card. The next day
he counted them after emptying out
every pocket, then made a display
on the hotel bed to amuse his daughter,
who was five and seemed intrigued
by the calligraphy and the occasional
handwritten message, and who enjoyed,
as even he did, the feel of raised letters
and small enameled surfaces,
and as he watched her, he played
with the notion of starting his own
collection of cards, the way others saved
cigar bands or French stamps. And now,
lying on the cold, wet bathroom floor,
he wished he could count them again.

Copyright © 2018 David Petruzelli. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2018.