Strict Diet
by J. Crews

Though the doctors said no salt,
salt was all my father craved.
His body bloated, skin water-logged
and gray, still he wanted potato chips,
honey-baked ham, greasy slabs
of Polish sausage from Piekutowski’s.
He begged for pepperoni pizza,
garlic butter, ribs slathered in sauce.
But when I did the shopping,
I searched only for labels that said
low sodium and no preservatives, instead
bringing home heads of broccoli,
turkey burgers, shredded wheat.
And when he died anyway,
guilt gnawed me like an ulcer—
how could I have denied him
his few final pleasures?—
until I found Big Mac wrappers
stuffed under the car seat,
jars of pickles in the hall closet,
and hidden among wads of tissues
near the night stand, his stash—
a half-used canister of salt.
I sat down on his sagging mattress
now stripped of stained sheets
and studied that blue label
with the girl in the yellow dress
holding her umbrella against a rain
of salt still falling from the sky.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. I remember that brand of salt with the girl and the umbrella—powerful image to end the poem with, couldn’t be better. Sorry about your dad. I think a lot of people would enforce a strict diet in your place. My wife’s 90 year old grandmother who has dementia has been staying with us and I probably give her coffee and coke too much cause that’s what she wants. And we push water drinking not enough, i’m sure. In any case, the poem brought out a range of emotions in me, sadness and happiness mostly. That makes for a beautiful trick to read but I instantly recognize it as true to life. Good read!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *