This is the first new poem I’ve written in months. Yes, I’ve edited some older pieces here and there, but I literally wrote the majority of this yesterday (and frankly, I don’t much care for it). Back in April I was out jogging early one Saturday morning on a trail here in Harrisburg. It was shortly before my 35th birthday and I got to thinking about my Pop-Pop (grandfather), who was also born in May. The weird thing? Even today, it seems no one can confirm whether he was born on May 30 or May 31. Regardless, there I was jogging, listening to my iPod, and the first seven or eight lines just hit me. Normally when I’m “inspired” I scramble to find something to write with and jot the words down immediately. I have notes on post-its, envelopes, magazine subscription cards, coupons, bills, novels, coloring books, newspapers, et al. Seriously, any writer will tell you that when that moment hits you, everything else be damned.
Anyway, this poem, as I mentioned, is ridiculously new. It’s raw and unpolished and unfinished and, well, probably not very good at all. Still, I guess I was happy just to have written something new that wasn’t me complaining or rambling on and on about LOST. Incidentally, I have three very distinct memories regarding my Pop-Pop:
- The first time I tried whiskey was from a decanter in his apartment, having stolen it as a small, small child. It inspired this poem.
- Once, when I was very young and stupid and insensitive, I was at a restaurant with my brother, Nana and Pop-Pop, and laughed at the old man because he had drool collecting in the corner of his mouth and didn’t realize it. To this day I feel awful about it.
- I received the news of his death when I was 15-years old. I was working in a restaurant kitchen doing food prep and got the call sometime before noon. I went outside and kicked the dumpster.
As a boy, seven or eight, I remember how
cool it was, the two of us – him
already someplace north of 80 – both
May babies. Maybies, he called it, which
at the time I couldn’t possibly understand,
yet giggled and swooned nonetheless,
because when it fell from his mouth
like a scrap of food he was no longer able
to chew, it was foreign and, therefore, beautiful.
I thought myself the only lineage that mattered,
so important to share something
now so meaningless with my father’s father,
because that’s what children do.
But these days, nearly 30 years later
and 20 years since I last saw him
in a hospital bed, mumbling, oxygen
strapped to his mouth, irregular blips
of white dashing across the black screen
of his monitor likes slices of light eking through,
I realize that shared speck between us
was as significant as new dandelion
that springs forward only days after the
pristine lawn sees its first splash
of rain and sunlight, a weed
that will go unpicked until the mower
is hauled out from the garage, primed and fired.