Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.
_______- Robert Frost
I tell it like it is, my father's motto, a creed
he practiced in the image of his sect's
patron saint, Howard Cosell. As a boy I could
never see the point in being mean. I followed
the meeker men of the mike, the homers
and the comical Holy Cowers. The men my father
coldly dismissed. "Rizzuto's nuts! Bobby Murcer
couldn't even shine Mantle's or DiMaggio's shoes."
Home on break from graduate school, I rode
with my father down to the nursing home.
My grandmother at ninety years plus, in poor
health, but as my father said "too damn stubborn
to die," reclined in her bed, dried bones wrapped
in thin paper, kept together more by miracle
than sinew, the remnant of a hard woman
and even harder life. In her thick Lithuanian
accent she stared me down, her strangest grandson,
a grown man still in school. She complained
sharply with her keen tongue, "I had five children.
Five! I never thought I would find myself in such
a place. I always thought that at least one child
would care enough to share his roof with me."
I began to look away when my father, her
youngest, and least favorite son, a one time
delinquent turned dropout, turned merchant
seaman, turned union tin-knocker and distant
parent, barked madly from his darkened corner,
"Jesus Key-riste Mary, you had five kids
because you had hot pants." Holy cow!
The old bones gasped, and then suddenly
broke into a long lost laugh. The three
of us couldn't stop, gasping for air, holding
our sore guts, wiping away hot tears. I learned
for free that day that poetry has little to do
with tact. Instead, the poet must call an honest
game while keeping one eye on the score.