Quin: Gertie

Gertie was maybe sixty when she died
probably somewhere in India
since that’s where they
used to get school

By the time I met her she was staying
on top of two antique olive-drab
school lockers in the biology
laboratory storeroom
fully retired.

She wore a grease-stained brown fedora
and a navy pinstriped man’s suit
(double-breasted) when she
sat with us around the
storeroom table. 

Sprawled from her chair with a beer
in one hand and a cigarette butt
in the other she appeared
to have recently
passed out

One late night beer-cheered Quin and I
were leaving the lab for food when
it occurred Gertie could use
a change of scene so
we filched her.

No one caught us crossing the campus or
stopped us walking the sidewalks
though Gertie hung between us
her arms draped round
our shoulders.

Seven blocks walking we worried about
having taken her but we laughed
a lot too and really couldn’t
contain ourselves till
Bob’s Drive-In.

We took a booth at Bob’s but no one cared
and even the waitress only joked
about how your friend there
could stand to eat
some food.

Our friend’s underfed arm around my neck
I took her up and down the fountain
so the sobering habitués could
shake her hand and they
all shook it.

Could you shake the dust-scrawny hand
of a skeleton you’ve never known
and go back to your sausages
with scrambled eggs
in silence?

We wondered if Gertie could get more
than silence at Mel’s (we called it
Smells) fifteen blocks north
so we walked her there 
and got zip.

By then we needed sleep but the sun
was nearly up and the Jesuits were 
up on campus saying Masses
so we took Gertie home
to Cole Street.

Is it correct to say she stayed with us
on Cole since during her stay some
parts of her left us one by one
as friends took bones 
for their decor?

The only bones remaining were the torso
(in the closet) and the skull (on the
mantel) which kept our landlady’s
yappy black cocker
away at least.

The skull finally fell and flew apart as it hit
the floor-tiles so we tossed the chunks
in the bathroom garbage can
and vacuumed up the
smaller stuff.

The suddenly un-named lifelorn torso was
now a laughlorn closeted albatross
un-dumpable in the park or
garbage since it could
raise questions.

At night we carried it from the closet back
to campus to the Administration
sub-basement which had 
a soft dirt floor and
buried it.

In the campus lab or out at Bob’s and Mel’s
and even coming apart — I bet Gertie
had a better time with us
than she had had
in India.