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My Uncle's Key Ring

My mathematical uncle's key ring jangles tales
of rooms nine hundred miles away,
rooms he will never see again, not ever,
doors he will never open again, not ever,
recollections of his long-gone parents,
thoughts of the set of Twain we gave away,
tones of the organ that was too heavy to move,
images of neighbors, of school, of work,
memories of algorithms and snow.

The front door key to the old Chicago house
rubs dull against the shiny newer key
that lets him into Southern Senior Villa #12
where no memory is older than a year.
"Back home, I almost didn't need a front door key,"
he said. "They used to bust the glass out anyhow,
and reach inside and the turn the knob."
A glazed-eyed street woman and her cat
had to be run out by the realtor we engaged
to find a buyer-any buyer-for the place.

The back door key to the old Chicago house
hangs next to another key he'll never use again,
the key to the totaled car that sent him
to intensive care and then to rehab
and then down South to mend his broken leg.
Sometimes he talks as if he might drive again.
"I used to drive long distances," he says,
"but then, I just don't know what happened.
I guess I passed out at the wheel. They said
I might have had a stroke, a little stroke."

"Don't worry about driving," I tell him.
"Just call me when you need to go somewhere."
I notice he has three skeleton keys upon his ring,
long ones, the kind folks used to use
to lock up bedroom doors and closets.
"Why are you keeping those?" I joke.
"Are you planning to unlock some skeletons?"
The jest falls flat, or his attention drifts.
He turns the conversation to probability.
He'd read some theories in a recent issue
of one of the many journals he still gets.
I look attentive, but I don't know a thing.


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