If It Were Not So

If It Were Not So

As kids, we jumped on grandpa’s sinkhole,

Plywood-lined, dandruff-sporing bed

And wore his chamber pot as a hat:

Running and screaming,

Breaking his things,

Gouging his drawers—

The secrets hid underneath—

Silenced by black and white TV blasting

Infomercials and you-are-not-the-father chatter,

Inhaling the energy bill to the studs.

Mom’s dad was always angry.

Not as angry as when he first taught me

How to tie my shoelaces—

The experience of a sage,

Dexterity of a giant,

The patience of a kitchen timer

Two ticks from wringing itself mad:

“Grab them

And fold each in half,

Forming two loops.

Hitch the holes together,

Yank them and jerk the knot

As tight as you can.”

He seemed to be having

As much trouble with the laces

As one who was also

Doing it for the first time.

I wanted to do it right,

Not to please him:

Nothing ever pleased him.

Not his second wife,

Not his divorced daughter,

Not his bastard grandson.

All he wanted was to never

Have to repeat himself.

He hated this more than having guests over;

Sumbitches who came to

Drink his water

And flush his toilets.

There were only three ways of doing things:

The right way;

The wrong way;

And his way.

His way superseded

The right way;

Because if he was wrong—

Brushing off the doubting stares

And beaded temples

Dusting his drooping shoulders—

He’d unflinchingly bulldoze

His way from where he was

To where he needed to be,

Without scratching his balding, gray head.

We neither had the heart nor the balls

To correct him.

We all simply went along with it.  

shortlink: dogb.us/notso



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