Sidewalk Chalk

by Brad Johnson

My uncle’s frontal lobe eroded
like the beachhead surrounding Lake Erie,
each year another few inches gone.
He went from managing an Ashtabula
chemical plant to wandering, 2 a.m.,
around the lake in a snowstorm wearing only
his socks. He never remembered when I visited
him in the home but he never forgot
when I was ten and dumped the water bucket
on him during dinner with his fiancée.
He chased me through the blueberries and dumped
me off the deck and into the pond.
Now my mother’s forgetting birthdays,
leaving the refrigerator door open
for hours and backing into cars at stop signs.
She made an appointment for some testing
but missed the appointment. She’s planning
on rescheduling the tests. Every time
I can’t find my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot
or can’t recall the current quarterback
for the Detroit Lions or remember what
I had for lunch two days ago I wonder
if this is genetic, this erosion
of the shore, this shadow eclipsing the brain.
My dad says I don’t have to worry
for another twenty years. Maybe thirty.
Outside, my daughter’s writing her name in chalk
on the sidewalk and drawing pointed houses
on the driveway. But there’s a storm coming
across the lake tonight and already
the rain taps its fingers on the window,
not demanding attention, just wanting to be heard.

Brad Johnson has two chapbooks, Void Where Prohibited and The Happiness Theory, available at He is Poetry Editor of Magnolia: A Florida Journal of Literary and Fine Arts.

Back to Issue Four: Summer 2009