Grandpa’s Favorite

It’s not that I was the tallest.
Not by a long shot.
Nor the best looking or cutest.
Well, maybe at age 2. Smartest?
Who knew back then?
But I always got the impression
I was my grandfather’s favorite.
Now, I don’t admit this with any
overweening pride. My pride lies
scattered and broken somewhere
in the basement or in my closet.
Years ago, I dropped it and
lots of people stepped on it.

But I can tell you the old man
would lift me into his dump truck
and let me fire up the engine.
He’d give only me nickels
to scratch his bald head while
he dropped off for a nap.
He called me Angelo and
I’ve never quite figured out why,
since I bear the same name he did.
But then, he christened all my cousins
with individual nicknames, too.
Hmmm…

Now I have two granddaughters
and I could never say one’s
my favorite, since they’re
so wonderfully different.
Their three-plus-year age gap looks
so vast when the oldest is barely four.
But here’s what I hope happens
when I’m finally hanging out
with that old man again in
the Valhalla of Hesches:
I want each of my granddaughters
to believe she was my favorite…
because she would be right.

On Day #16 of the PAD Challenge, the prompt was for a “favorite” poem. Which is hard because I don’t have a favorite much of anything. So I just sat at the keyboard and started typing. I often forget the free write is my friend. So here’s the “favorite poem,” which has what someday might be three of my favorite lines concluding it.

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Divided

In basic math, they call the resulting number of something divided by another something a quotient. For instance, the quotient of 6 divided by 3 is 2. In elementary school, the teachers snuck a test by us to quantify each of our abilities to learn. The test generated a number called an Intelligence Quotient. Here’s the confusing thing, though: In mathematics (or arithmetic, as we called it back in the post-abacus/pre-calculator days) you divided two numbers to come up with a quotient; with the IQ test, it was the intelligence quotient that did the dividing of all the students. This bothered my sense of fair play and caused Barbara and Terry to sit on the other side of class. I asked the Sister why and she said it was for the best. Then I asked to go to the boys room. On my way back to my new desk, I snuck a look at the list she used to divide us. I found my name next to a number. I returned to my seat and pondered how they could divide 1 from 32 and come up with 147. Dumb asses. And they wonder why I hated math.

For Day #5 of the PAD Challenge, we were charged with writing a poem based on the word or concept of “intelligence.” I quickly — and I mean before breakfast quickly — came up with this prose-like thingamabob recalling how the black-habited powers that be separated some students from others after we took a certain weird test. I usually obeyed authority. I’d question the hell out of it to see if it deserved it. I wonder if that’s why some teachers always said I was a smartass?

Case of the Forgotten Words and Remembered Faces

The mystery is why
I keep thinking of them,
remembering instances
of one on one
from years on years ago
when I can’t recall
what I ate for breakfast.
I remember freckles,
blue eyes with gold speckles,
sweat droplets clinging
to an upper lip, or not,
the smell, the texture,
the taste of their skin,
each of the names of
the ones that changed me,
and which one would call me
Joe, Joseph, Joey or
even by my whole name.

But I can sit here and
reach into my head to toss
its books and papers all over
for ten minutes just trying
in vain to find one simple word.
Maybe something like
“cardinal” or “radiator”
or “duvet” (I’m sure one
of them had a white duvet
with a blue paisley design)
that should to be as close
to my virtual hand
as backspace or DELETE
ought to be at this moment.
But I see I’m finished now
and can forget all this
emotional ephemera
until some other day.
But I can’t. And for that,
I must remember to be grateful.

Day 4’s effort for PAD April ’18. This one required taking the word “Case” and using it in the title, like “Case (something or other)” and then writing a poem based on it. And that’s what I just did. I wrote a something or other.

Nondisclosure Agreement

 

Looked at from this long view,
so many miles and trials
from the oath never to,
perhaps the secret
never was a secret anyway.

When you own the fact,
wear it proudly, like
a navy cashmere overcoat,
what does it matter
if the one who swore
never to tell…tells?

Maybe it doesn’t matter,
maybe it does.
Maybe you want to hold
your co-conspirator to
a higher standard – a test,
control – than the one
set for yourself.

Or maybe the secret keeper
just wants to hold something
you shared with the one
you knew you could trust.
And that trust is the only thing
you still share to this day.

Once again, I’m participating in Writer’s Digest’s twice-annual Poem-A-Day (PAD) Challenge. I must write a poem for each of the 30 days of April, based in some way on a prompt theme set by WD Editor Robert Lee Brewer. This came along just in time, since I was just about to throw in the terry cloth keyboard, because it feels like I no longer can answer the bell for another round of creating. Day 1’s prompt: Secret.

Naughts and Crosses

He thinks of her from time to time.
Often during the nights, but
other times during quiet days
when dreams have greater access
to the doors both closed long ago.
Always, though, when he’s alone.
A certain loneliness was about all
they had in common. That and
the darkness which never strayed
too far from their shadows,
so close that it often impersonated
their silhouettes, perfectly
outlining them in basic black.
His knots and crosses could never
hold her, when it was flowers
captured her heart.
But seamen know naught of blossoms
and blossoms know less of the sea.

I’ve been away from home for some days, away from my creative function for longer than that. Here’s a mid-afternoon drabble I dribbled onto the keys on this day after I’ve returned to the cold and dark I know better than the warm and sunny. Would that it was the opposite, eh?

What Is It We See When We Don’t Want to Look?

As I wander from my right ear
to left, the sounds sometimes
ring clear as a trumpet’s blare.
But sometimes, the sights
along the way don’t
stand so sharply defined.
I guess that’s okay, though,
if you consider yourself an
Impressionist with a notebook.
Yep, that sky’s full of swirling stars
and that’s the sunset on the Seine…
to my squinted mind’s eye, at least.
Memories give me the most problems,
though, how they appear so palpably
at the corner of my eye,
yet transparent right in front of me.
Perhaps life would be better
if I got out of my head and
directed all of my attention
into your world. But, while
my mind is full of whats
and whos and maybes, yours
looks like it might be full
of too much this or that,
him or her, definitely or clearly.
Perhaps that’s just what I think
I see when I focus, instead of
admiring you through the half-veiled
lids of my feelings, and perhaps
you’re as befogged inside as I am.
Humor me, and squinch your eyes
and describe the man you see
this last time before I fade away.
And then lie to me
just once more.

Full Stop.

He hates to think
he’ll reach The End and
never have the chance
to close their story
with a clean, contented dot,
punctuation connoting
the final exhalation
of a spoken breath.

Her draft still
bears that bold-face
exclamation point,
bolt-upright, indignant,
with arms akimbo…
if !” had any arms.

His version sports
what they once called
an interrogation mark,
a Quasimodo “?” questioning
something they still
didn’t understand,
only that he’s either
the clueless or callous
actor who prompted
her reaction.

They say he’s not got
much of a future
to look forward to
and his vision’s grown
too befogged to clearly
discern the past.
So he wonders if
some day she might
just say hello.

Perhaps then they
could bid goodbye to
the figures who cast
their shadows upon
what once was yet
never could be
and place that .,
a simple declarative
conclusion, on this,
a story better left
…unwritten.

First-draft desparate free-write. Full stop.