Playing Hearts at Uncle Doug’s

Those nights playing cards at Uncle Doug’s
the smoke-filled kitchen, the beagle
at his feet. Aunt Elaine fills our glasses with
Pepsi and hums Johnny Cash with the
radio that plays low next to the stainless toaster.

I play with the hair that falls across your back.
and that sorcerer, Uncle Doug, wins again.
I propose we stretch our legs
on the back porch, back yard,
the nettled edge of the spinach fields

that recline under the North Country stars.
All are dead now, maybe even those stars, too.
Not me, mostly. But I forget how to play Hearts.
I forget exactly where Uncle Doug
and Aunt Elaine lived.

You know where to find me—
reaching for that next card
the next draw that will
put into our hands everything
we deserved but never got.


This poem also appears in Bill Gillard’s chapbook Ode to Sandra Hook.



About the Poet:  Bill Gillard is an award-winning teacher of creative writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin – Fox Valley. His writing has appeared in Serving House, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Literary Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, Chiron Review, Review Americana, Dark Sky Magazine, and many others. His most recent chapbook is Ode to Sandra Hook (Finishing Line Press). He earned an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is a recovering youth hockey coach.


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