Poetry

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.”