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.)