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Breakfast With My Grandfather


ISSUE:  Spring 1976
On fragile finger bones
tight stretched with
translucent
time-spotted
parchment,
the coin silver spoon
is barely
balanced.

Silently
we watch it
sink
into the bog
of cornflakes.

And we wait,
you
and I,
too shy to press
for recognition.

And sure enough,
it rises
dripping
milk
drops
down
the chin you cannot shave.

When I kissed you
this time
you smelt of milk,
infant sweet and
sour
not of whiskey
and the nose-knocking
tobacco from Morocco
that was worth the risk,
in a child’s economy,
of a rake scratch from your beard
of a bee buzz
in the ear.

Your hand is
buzzard thin now
but it’s still the hand that blistered
on the bone-bleached oar
and hooked rank fish flesh
on my line
and when the limp string
spiraled
straight
would creep back,
silent as a spider,
for the crab net.

In winter time
I watched it spin
the Cyclops eye
of your Gothic radio
coaxing QXR
across the mountains

and lace with saintly patience
the high-topped
bump-toed
Army boots
you wore.

The wrist
falls
first,
then the hand
upon the table.
The spoon twists free of it
and settles face down
on the starched mat
while you doze.

“Granddaddy,” I say at last,
“It’s Anne.
Are you awake?
I’ve driven up to see you.”

Film-blue irises
register
my image.
Phlegm rattles
in your throat
and you begin to cough
until your glass bones shake
like prisms in the chandelier
responding to a game of
leap frog.

“Are you all right?” I ask.

The wet rattle rasps.

“Would you like a glass of water?”

You manage it
 alone.

And then you speak,
abruptly:
“Tell me . . .”

Sandpaper voice.
It has not changed
 appreciably.

“Tell me, child,
who did you say
you were?

Before I can explain,
your eyelids
drop
shut
like a doll’s
and your chin
flops back into its
collarbone
 cradle

leaving me,
for company
the relic of
your hand.

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