Expiration Date In the dream we all had one. Some were subtle, the back of an earlobe, the sole of your foot. Pale digits in a delicate Roman font. Others more brazen, a numeric ring on a middle finger. Nobody got to choose. It was the first thing new moms checked after counting fingers and toes, tiny numbers and dashes in folds of still damp skin. No point trying to get rid of them. Like the chemistry teacher who scrubbed her skin raw with a concoction boiled up in the lab. Her tattoo-artist boyfriend, undeterred, wielded his needle magic to give her a few more years. But the merciless 2022 was still there. Many tried to ignore it, the way third graders in July refuse to think about September. A few made it into a party, their birthday’s morbid cousin, where black balloons had a whole new meaning. Later I wondered if they were any better off, those people with indelible dates, taking their personal time bombs with them as they went about their lives. At least they were never surprised by death, foretold as it was from the start. No phone calls that drop you to your knees. But you’d still have to face the appointed date, wouldn’t you? Alone in your den, blinds shut tight, listless ceiling fan stirring above. Feeling the seconds squeeze through you like cigarette smoke through a menthol filter. Realizing as you wait—the end is still the end even when you know its schedule.
About the Author: A 2021 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Ken Hines has written poems that appear in AIOTB, Vita Poetica, Ekphrastic Review, Psaltery & Lyre and other magazines. His poem “Driving Test” won the Third Wednesday Journal Annual Poetry Prize. All this scribbling takes place in Richmond, Virginia.
Image Credit: Reijer Stolk “Anatomical study of the neck, arm and leg muscles of a man” Public Domain image courtesy of Artvee