Roger Camp

Twenty-one thousand and one nights

for Bernice Bowers Camp and Oscar Ai Camp

Husband and Wife- Study for Les Faucheurs by Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin

When my father revealed
his mother and father
had never spent a night apart
in their sixty years of marriage
my brain did a quick calculation:
twenty-one thousand nights.
Married only two years at the time
I had already ruined our record –
two nights alone in Illinois
for a job interview,
one night in Houston
for a draft physical,
several days in hospital
for removal of my appendix,
sports fishing overnight
in Mexican waters.
Wheat farmers, my grandparents
never interviewed for jobs.
Healthy as a brace of draft horses
neither required a hospital stay.
Born in a good year, my grandfather
was too young for the first war, too old
for the second.
Never deep sea fishing
no ocean in the vicinity of Spokane.
When it did come to the hospital
my grandmother insisted on a bed
in the same room as my dying grandfather.
One of them had to die first
ending the unbroken string of nights
that stretched across the prairie sky
each star marking
the calendar of their life together.


About the writer:
Roger Camp lives in Seal Beach, California, where he greets his orchids, walks the pier, and spends afternoons with his pal, Harry, over drinks at Nick’s on 2nd. When he’s not at home, he’s traveling in the Old World. His work has appeared in Gulf Stream, Pank, Southern Poetry Review and Nimrod.

Image: Husband and Wife- Study for Les Faucheurs by Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin (1860-1943). Oil on canvas. 37.3 x 25.5 inches. 1902. Public domain.