Poem #110

How Bill Clark took his coffee with elephants…

Sitting at my grandparents,
sitting in a herd of elephants,
are my grandfather and I;

the sitting room is in silence,
and all who’ve sat there are tense,
tense about this difference,

this difference:
how this and other school days will die.

The stone man speaks…

Would you’ve believed me;
I climbed Purina Dog Chow,
I climbed up their tower,
climbed up the circus ladder,
to string the Christmas lights
from the metal Christmas tree
above Richmond;
would you’ve believed me?

I went into the military,
I became a marine
when I was only seventeen,
thinking it was cool,
and never finished high school,
and what did they teach me?
I could break a neck with my legs. Seriously,
what did they give me?
They gave me enough wire
to choke the throat of my enemy,
the throat of my enemy in Germany,
and a small knife no one could see,
in an attempt to retrieve
what they might say,
and would you’ve believed?
I wasn’t to return alive,
would you’ve believed me, then?

And would you’ve believed,
were I to tell you,
I flew
over  Mount Fujiyama
before the bomb fell
on Hiroshima,
would you believe me, then?

I’m no hero, really,
really, the black-sheep of the family,
when you compare me
to my brother Bob or brother Don
Bob worked in sales and Don has all sorts of money

[or so the story
was sadly told].

Be a good boy,
and look after your father
[he said, quite emphatically];
he smokes too many cigarettes.

And yet, with many regrets,
that’s the final fantastic words
I heard from him, besides directives
or orders.

I asked upon clarity
when I spoke with my father,
to see if all of this could be.
Could this be my grandfather?

Remember your grandfather drank
[he drank coke and whiskey];
and when he returned, from oversea,
he slept for a year
in bed with a machete,
it scared me,
it scared your grandmother,
it scared my sisters.
I would fight him
to leave the kitchen
when he wasn’t sober
I’d hate to fight him, you see,
he was the only father to me,
not your Grandpa Davis–
he never took care of me–
it was Bill Clark that
taught me.

And yet, there was I, angry
when my father and I
went to pick you up from the bar,
went to pick you up from the hospital
and sat by you when you drank by me in high school
interrupting school, reading and papers, just to say hi,
angry how you left grandma,
yet tirelessly required both her and pa
to clean the shit-stained quarters
when you would leave us all.

And yet, I remember
you took your coffee with cream
and two spoons full of sugar,
or that’s how you instructed ma.

By your urn, at Williamsburg,
not far from Martindale fishing lake,
where we ate famous recipe chicken
and fished from the shore, in fact
just across the street,
I cannot cry
because of ambilify,
yet my heart does shake.

The sergeant sounds the order
for the gun squad to fire,
and on the triggers
the fingers
gently squeeze.

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