Noriega Dies the Morning I Visit Dad

My father, one year older than Noriega, sits up
in his hospital bed. His bony, bald legs are
pale sticks adrift between the hem of a sky-
blue gown and skid-proof, yellow socks.

A chart on the door tells how to know who
is in what sort of danger by the color
of their socks. Dad insists he doesn’t need
my help as he fumbles to unplug the heart

monitor, untangles the IV, and makes his slow,
skid-proof way to the bathroom door. Between
loose cotton ties, I glimpse his disposable briefs
and look away too late. “The medicine makes

me go,” he explains. “Of course,” I say. He nods.
What color socks did Noriega wear that day,
no longer at risk for a fall? When I was
sixteen, I saw Dad as dictator and ran

away in fear. What did I know of fear?
I did not yet know how sick my mother was
or that in those days her diagnosis was a death
sentence. While Dad had raged, surrounded

by strangers in another family’s kitchen,
I hid upstairs. My best friend beside me was
quietly cleaning his shotgun. I moved back
home when Mom’s cancer returned. And when

she died, a truce like sediment settled between
my father and I. The door opens. Dad returns,
leaning on his wheeled IV and stumbling into
the heart monitor. He does not protest now

as I help him sit down and straighten the sheets.
He reaches out, trying to plug himself back in.

Cover art: “Untitled” by Irwin Freeman


David J. Bauman

David J. Bauman’s third poetry chapbook is a collaboration with his son Micah titled Mapping the Valley (Seven Kitchens Press, 2021). His second chapbook, Angels & Adultery, was printed in the Editor’s Series at Seven Kitchens in 2018. David has work published or forthcoming in literary magazines and anthologies, including New Ohio Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, Whale Road Review, and Love Jets: Queer Male Poets on 200 years of Whitman (Squares & Rebels, 2019).