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There’s something wistful

                1.
There’s something wistful about the motherless
Something sad and uncontained
My grandpa lost his mother early
and it seemed he was that way

The family myth was he was wicked, crooked
a dangerous young man but, in fact, he was just a second
or third banana in a mildly corrupt New Jersey city
in the late forties to early fifties

A party guy, a glad hander fun to know,
he wasn’t much of a danger; fun to know
and even when he lost his health and his panache,
the real gangsters had his back

Grandpa used to say, “He’s a real gentleman”
if you were male and he liked you
or, if you were a lady, he’d say
“She’s a real lady”

 

                2.
His eyes glitter and frighten
When he saw a painting he liked
he’d stare at it an hour or more— he’d ignore
the other museum masterworks and stare

Prophet or imbecile,
what in this life should I be redeemed from,
my taciturn, ruddy friend—
your taste for disorder, for mess?

The irritation of light
the scrape of bright colors against the skin
“Get out of the way, damn you, you idiots!
You morons, stop blocking my view!”

He wanders, waits, yearns
Caught in this decade of malice and
religious stupidity—disappointment still
stabs and cuts at his age

 

                3.
If you didn’t know him
He would appear cool, calm, contained
The trick of his façade and charm in the distance—
always the gentleman

After the Germans killed my brother
I thought, well, this is personal
I never took another POW alive
This was your “justified war of redemption”

Jaunty soldiers from the distance
But we fought a hardened enemy
that glorified butchery and the SS
There’s a lot of stuff I won’t talk of

that I’m not proud of...
We’re a warrior people
even our every time peace drips blood—
and I’ll never apologize

 

                4.
With his egged-shaped head,
blackened bulged eyes, large lips—
he looked not at all like the suave artist of our dreams
He looked like a humanoid insect

Masks of impunity, sardonic hardness,
for the sake of the zing, survival, success
He had aviator dreams and
wanted to fly free like some outcast...

Understand, we’re deathly exposed when we love
As Myer said, “What men do is their law,
not what they say”— sadly, we mess up our lives
when we fail to admire enough

A world of childish things destroyed in defeat
Ideals that yield to need and chance
Complexity upon complexity,
fast footwork and the dance

 

 

 

 

-August 2, 2014-