Body Memory

I am.
I make no apologies.
German, aggressive, driven,
Hardworking, overweight,
And male.

I will not blame my ancestors
For this nose,
The privileged whiteness of this skin
Nor the attitudes that sustain it.

I will not blame them for this desire,
Despite it all,
To make a difference.
I am sick of blaming
Outside forces.
It is unproductive.

Though in all likelihood
It is why
I’m the kind of guy
I am.

Man Talk

On rainy days we men gathered
in the tool shed to talk,
sitting on sawed off sections of felled trees
made into stools and work benches
of various sizes.

Sometimes we sorted nuts and bolts
or straightened things up;
but mostly we helped my brother Loren
forge some new invention;
as simple as a bale hook;
as complex as a new drag,
his welding talents reknown.

The talk was gruff and raucous;
a liar’s club,
complete with bursts of language and an edge.

I never sat or stood too close to my father
on these occasions,
although I did learn to listen
to what the men were saying,
and how real men said things,
smoking their Camels
and wishing someday
I could join in.

Show Time

When I told my mother that I had just won
Second place at the regional Orator’s Club,
She said, “I was always good in school too.”

When someone asked my father,
“Is Jerry smart?”
He said, “He must be, he’s 30,
And never worked a day in his life.”

One day I announced to my parents
That I had joined the Peace Corps,
That I had been invited to work
In community development in Bolivia
My mother said, “You’re giving up
your teaching job
to work with Indians?
I just don’t understand you, sometimes.”

My father said, “I hope to hell you know
what you are doing!”

After the Peace Corps,
I got drafted.

My mother said, “Ah, my son, the soldier.”
My father said, “You look real good
in that uniform.”





My Uncle Bill had hands so big
it was said
he could rip out the seams of
an extra large pair of gloves
just by closing his fists.


I always wanted hands like that.
His were the hands I associated
with “real work.”
His were the hands I associated
with “earning a living.”
His were the hands I came to see
as building America.
His were the hands I associated
with being a “real man.”

My brothers all got Uncle Bill’s hands;
mine came from someplace else.
They are the hands of a typist,
a writer, an egghead scholar,
someone about whom Uncle Bill would say,
“Never did an honest day’s work in his life.”

Uncle Bill taught me these lessons well.
Let me see your hands.
I’ll instantly judge your worth
and whether or not
you can pat my backside.



On Monday
she did the washing.
Most evening
she did the milking,
The chickens and garden
were hers alone.

 Evenings she made supper,
knitted socks,
nd make sure the kids
did their homework.
She always had dreamed
of being a teacher.

 On Tuesday
she did the baking.
Five loaves of bread,
plus kolatches,
a pan of cinnamon rolls,
and a pie, of course.

On Wednesday
she cleaned the house.
Lord, everything got dusty
in just one week.
Wednesday evening
was choir practice.

Ladies Aid
on Thursday forenoon.
On Thursday afternoon
she sewed,
making good use
of those printed flour sacks. 

 On Friday,
baths all around.
She had a standing appointment
at the beauty parlor.
Just a wash and set.
Her one indulgence. 

 On Saturday
she did what little shopping
her egg money could buy.
Sugar, flour, lard.
You know, the necessities.

 On Sunday
she prepared a pot roast,
timed to be done
when church was over.
After devotions,
she led the family in saying Grace.

 This was Hannah’s lot in life.
Two axe handles wide in the hips.
A little preachy perhaps,
But a steadying force.