28 June 2007

My Grandfather Poem

Every poet writes a grandfather poem.

This is mine.

When you were orphaned,

Did you feel like the seed

You so often dropped in the ground

As a farm child?

Did you cry at night motherless

In an unlit room?

(Sometimes I do.)

Were you angry

That you couldn’t go to school

Past the fourth grade because

You had to earn your keep?

(I often complained about schoolwork.)

When you were fourteen and you said,

“I can do anything a man can do,”

To a potential employer,

Did you believe it?

(Sometimes I feel like I try to be

More than I am.)

When did you realize the girl

You met when she was twelve

Was the lovely woman you married

When she was sixteen?

(She still loves you

Even though you’re gone.)

How did you build a house,

A perfectly symmetrical

Piece of modernist artwork,

Without any architectural training?

(You never believed in no.)

Was it frightening to have to feed a family

In the Depression?

(I can't even save on my middle class salary.)

Were you ever scared while guarding

Prisoners for the County’s road crew?

(I get scared of regular people.)

What happened between you and my father?

Why were you so patient with

Me as a young boy of ten when I

“Helped” you with your carpentry?

(I still carry your carpentry tape in my bag.)

When your hands began to shake,

Did you know you were getting sick?

(Some say the Parkinson’s runs in families.)

And most of all,

Why, when reading was such a struggle for you,

Did you read every word of my first story,

Following every word with a shaky finger?

(I think I may already know.)


My job is a job for the people who have been “hired for this sort of thing.”
Take the things that have been returned to the front of the store
And return them to the location identified for me,
A homecoming of product to metal shelf.
I also collect the ones that have been abandoned throughout the store
When the materialistic urge has passed.
(“I really shouldn’t buy this pair of shoes before payday.
I’ll leave them here in Automotives.”)

I must make sure each box is in single file, side to side,
Lined up across the front.
Each box must stand in a military line,
Connected to each other by their sides,
Creating a smooth exterior,
As if all the boxes were merged into one giant box identity,
Devoid of its own personality:
Uniformed diversity.

This store is a giant animal,
And everyday it is beaten by the little ants that feed on it,
Moving from its tail toward its head.
My small job is to, as unnoticeably as possible,
Re-tail the beast
So that it can fight again tomorrow.

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