Thursday, January 16, 2014


Cuts made clean
and level.
Corners tight
and a spotless pickup truck
(among many other things).
HO-scale trains (from a long time ago)
and Aladdin lamps
unused for ages
but still at the ready.
The model of HMS Titanic
lying half-built in its box
throughout my childhood to today
- I guess now it won't be finished.
The books of ships
and trains
the beauties of the age of Steam
loved as an architect would love them
for form (not as I
his son, an engineer, who
thinks in stress-and-strain-and-speed).
And over and around all these
his house
designed and built to
wrap around my mother and his sons,
a home to keep and care for
(now the longest-kept of all his homes,
he was a builder, after all, and that
has some prerogatives).

I have a pistol, bright and blued,
just a little target twenty-two,
and when I hold it I am once more
a child, unsteady,
with a Grandpa at the ready,
to teach and guide its use
(he kept it in the nightstand -
I never knew - for years, a guard at hand
to watch his home).
He was a builder, too,
he and his son, my father,
their two clean Chevrolets
(one tan, one blue,
the old straight-six half-tons)
parked here and there
around the neighborhood,
at work, together or apart,
or at the homestead
on the grass between the cabins
at home among the trees
and huckleberries where
Grandpa's Grandpa had once farmed.

Perched upon my bookshelf,
squished a bit by paperbacks,
two leathern volumes sitting side by side,
a book by Bowditch built for boatmen,
such men as my great-uncle whose it was,
and by it, thinner (fewer logs and bays),
a book on drafting from a simpler age,
with platens clean and careful on the page,
heavy (so that it may lie
open while you work
hunched at your draftsman's table),
full of lines and clarity,
a side I never knew
of Fred, the nice old uncle
who built boats
(I never wondered how).

A dimmer recollection
(I was young)
I have of mother's dad,
my Grandpa Bud,
but still I have a few
snapshots in my mind
of Hood's Canal and rocky shores
of clams and a small pickup truck
(blue, like my first one)
and from a different time
before vacation homes grew up,
Grandpa kept a garden
- damn those deer! -
I have the little rifle he would use
to pepper them with shot
(just little pellets and a little powder,
not much more than a swat)
and how that fouled it so!
When first he gave it
to my folks (I was, as I have said,
quite young) though not allowed
to shoot it, I could clean,
just like my dad,
(though on a different type of tool -
he never did like guns)
and clean I did
until the bluing shone
and where the wear had taken it away,
the steely gray perked up
and I was proud. 

But now my father,
Grandpas both, and uncle Fred,
the men that I admired
all are dead.

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