Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Clintonville in May

One more, then back to work... I've not read this one in public yet. I started writing it last week during the readings; it's probably slightly rude that I often write poems while other people are reading, but I get ideas then, and it works. Almost every Monday I'll scribble a few lines during the Open Mic, then go home and flesh out a poem.

In Clintonville in May

I chose this house, this street,
Because it feels like Lakewood,
The place I was most miserable,
Where I should have been the happiest –

I recall my grandmother’s revelation
After Christmas dinner, when I was
Nineteen and the men had all gone
Downstairs to football on the television
While the women – my aunts,
My mother and grandmother, myself –
Cleared the table and made
Coffee. I walked back into
The kitchen just in time to hear her say
The happiest years of her life
Were between graduation and
Marriage, and now, in the years since
George died.

George was my grandfather, six feet
Three inches of steelworker, red-
Haired like my father, like me,
A stationary mountain at the head
Of the table, silent and coldly forbidding.
I was scared of him my whole life, his temper
having attained the status of legend.
He’d been dead ten years
When she said it, and even I knew
We’d all been happier since.

I should have been happy
There – the house of white,
The many-paned windows,
A wide shallow porch and a shaded
Backyard I could mow in half
An hour. I couldn’t stay.
I left every weekend to see him.
I left at the end of my lease.

And years later, after he left, I chose
this house - White again, with this porch
And this yard and these lilacs budding
In the springtime sun weeks before
They will bloom in Cleveland.

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