V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





My grief is raw, it hangs hooked like gauze shrouded ham
curing in the smokehouse or the mitoxantrone and aredia

that drip into my father’s right wrist.  His left hand
nooses my wrist.  Chained by my love, by the bracelets,

the necklaces he had made for me from field clover tied
head to stem, I can’t repeat bone scan, his last PSA count.

To distract my father, to pass the three hours, I read
the sports page, quote the latest in the battle for the title

of home run king.  Taking off a Cincinnati Reds’ hat
to finger his long white hair that impresses women tubed

up in other hot pink lounge chairs, my father can’t resist
spouting statistics.  It’s those Yankees he remembers:

The Team in 1927.  That summer he was barely thirteen,
doing the work of a man, hauling logs, baling hay,

driving his daddy’s Model T.  In their regular season,
taking 110 games, those Yankees swept Pittsburgh

clear out of the World Series.  One handed, my father
can still wow the ladies by showing how he swung a broom,

cleaning the Pirates right out of the stands.  The Yankees’
percentage of .722 in regular and post-season games

was the best ever.  Babe Ruth hit 60 homers, more than
every other American League team.  Just twenty four,

Lou Gehrig hit 47 runs, accounted for 175 r.b.i.—or what
fans like my father called ribbies.  Just warming up,

he gets started on Hall of Fame pitcher Herb Pennock
who won 19 games.  That’s it for me.  No Connecticut roots,

my mind’s back in Cecelia, Kentucky, the cellar house
where Grandma kept green mason jars she’d filled last fall.

Needing peaches, lard to fix me a pie, she called me sissycat,
tried to shame me into going down alone but after supper,

my father came along.  No light, boards were rotting out
on the stairs, so we were quick, mapping out fruit ordered

in red, yellow, white, gold.  If the cellar door clanged,
I knew his hand would be there, a flare of wooden matches

he used to light kindling in the morning for the coal stove.
Spiders tied nets; my father went first to break the veil.

© by Vivian Shipley


Contributor's note
Next page
Table of contents
VPR home page