611 Readings

Not Forgetting Nebraska

Grandad never owned a lawn mower.
In a sort of shuffle-jig, like a line dance
that he’d learned at Shore’s,
He would shake out kerosene or diesel
alongside the asphalt
with double yellows painted new,
onto weeds taller than me.
He would step forward, and with the flick
of an upturned, match-laden wrist
wave goodbye
With my Calico, Butterball, looking on
from beneath the porch.

Grandad’s pink lips would part,
and he would sway back and forth,
hands cupping elbows,
stepping in time
with the shimmering heat-waves
which were twirling on the floor of
stale June air.
And he reappeared
into the world, reborn in
the fearfully simple revelation.

Grandad used to burn his trash in old, red and
fifty gallon oil barrels.
Chicken noodle soup cans, too soft tomatoes,
Styrofoam boxes, fish bones,
wisped into black penciled-in
lines of smoke.
When they started
collecting his trash in a can,
that year the corn only reached waist high,
he was giddy with the mechanic novelty.
The truck would spin and twirl,
crushing that week’s egg shells.
He thought it was nice,
but I knew it wasn’t
meant to be done this way.

Grandad’s frail bones don’t dance
anymore, but I knew
he’s spun a brown eyed girl
somewhere, sometime ago,
on a cobblestone street in Venice,
with his brother smirking
somewhere in the shadows
unable to hide in their navy whites,
the pair singing along to songs
they’d never heard before,
the candles swaying with them.

Grandad was older than
I knew people got then,
with a sinkhole in his thigh,
and no one knew why it was there.
I would watch him play solitaire
in his tiny country kitchen
walls flecked with the grease
of fried chicken.

That fourth of July,
with the corn short,
the cousins set the roof on fire
by accident,
they smelled of whiskey and
orange cream popsicles,
even the children.
The fireworks did it,
and with water pumped from the well
the uncles put it out easy,
and the screen door snapped
open and closed, pitying itself.
And Grandad with
arms cradling an imaginary baby,
and he flicked an imaginary match
and swayed,
and he could see the whole house go up.
Then Butterball would be homeless,
but Grandad had remembered fearful.

Posted 07/22/10
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