Now in his hundredth year, he struggles
at his kitchen table, fighting
the small batteries

that drive his hearing aids.
He’s let himself be talked into this battle
by me. I want to read him something

I have written. He tells me
he can hear me without batteries
or tiny microphones. Those smooth and waxy doors

refuse his thick blunt fingers.
But I would have to shout
my words. Some words can’t bear

to be shouted.
And on it goes
until he lets me win.

So much I want to tell him:
how talking once was easier than this,
and less important,

how time is little more
than coffee grounds,
the ring of milk that stains his table.

How memories are the steps
to last year’s dance,
how the longed for afternoon

of rain outside his window
has turned our sky the softest gray.


Barry Kitterman attended the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Montana, where he received his MFA in 1981. He has taught writing and literature in the US and abroad, and is a Professor of English at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. He has been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, and the Hambidge Center in Georgia, the recipient of a Tennessee Arts Council Grant and an NEA grant, and is the fiction editor for Zone 3 Magazine. He is the author of a novel, The Baker’s Boy, and a collection of stories, From The San Joaquin.