Pat Walleck’s Leg

I won it in a poker game, his leg,

the first prosthesis a cross

between grasshopper and trombone,

scraped up from when his girlfriend

shoved him down the long steel stairs.

We never talked him into the Walnut River

where minnows nibbled our hair,

our bench a submerged upriver elm.

Instead he tossed us beers from the bank,

and menthol cigarettes in Ziploc.

Fake leg unstrapped from stump,

he could have leapt in head first,

and swam. But would not. He died

at twenty-eight. I avoided him at the end.

When his leukemia came yawning

out of hibernation, I made my clumsy

pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Roch

on St. Roch Street, surrendered my prize

to the room where other hopers had left

braces, trusses, videotaped mastectomies,

plaster casts of hands feet elbows faces.

Pat’s leg made the shrine a leg show

for an audience of unblinking Jesus

and St. Lucy’s eyes on a platter.

Do your work, I asked the statues, not seeing how.

In the best elegy for my friend,

which this can’t be, he’d be left high

on the riverbank watching us

across the slow water. Back then he knew

more than we could fool ourselves about. Let alone now.