January Two old men used to live next to each other. One is dead and the other is dying. The one that is dead planted a garden. The one that is dying is my father. My father sits in…
My parents had just decided to move back to Indiana when my father had his first stroke. The eight months that followed were about doctors’ visits, medication, two more strokes, cancer, and, inevitably, end-of-life decisions.
Finally, a funeral.
My mother bore it all with a stoic sadness and let me make most of the decisions. I accepted that responsibility and never felt the stress of it all until later. Moreover I did not mourn my father until weeks after he’d died and I began to write “Eight Months” and other stories.
Writing is and has always been a means of clarification for me. In the silence of my own thoughts and words, it is as if I am hypnotized and filing papers into an order that is logical and tidy. Then I can move on.
I do it as if I am someone else, an observer who while empathic is watching a movie about someone else.
I wrote “Eight Months” in one sitting and like everything I write, whether it is poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, I rewrite constantly. Leaving it for a while and then returning until I am only changing a word here and there.
I write for myself and although I’ve been fortunate enough to have been published many times, publication is never a goal. I attend no writer’s groups, have no writing degree, and beyond Facebook (which I joined unwillingly, at my daughter’s insistence that I needed a “social presence”), have no website.
I am always humbled and frankly a little surprised when someone finds value in my work. And I always hope that reading it helps someone get through their day as much as writing it helped me get through mine.
GILBERT ARZOLA is the second son of a former migrant worker, living in Valparaiso, Indiana, with his wife, Linda. His family arrived in spring of 1954 in North Judson, Indiana, when he was three, to work in the fields, deciding to settle there. Gilbert was named Poet of the Year by Passager Press in 2019. His first book of poetry, Prayers of Little Consequence, was published in 2020. Rattle published a chapbook, The Death of a Migrant Worker, in September of 2021 after selecting it from two thousand submissions for their annual prize. His story “Losers Walk,” originally published by Chaleur Magazine, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018. A poem called “Richard Smith” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize this year. Gilbert’s work has appeared in Whetstone Magazine, Palabra, Crosswinds Poetry, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Passager, SLAB, and The Elysian Review, among others. Find him on Facebook @ArzolaGilbert.