V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





Postcard, 1959: Coon Rapids, Iowa.  Halcyon Days. 
There's Krushchev and there's Grandfather, photographed 
together in cosmic conjunction.  Grandfather's 
staring off newsprint's ragged edge into starry margins, 
an ah-shucks gawk on his face, one vascular hand dipped 
into the wagon's Eisenhower-era corn wealth.  Krushchev, 
foreground's child, palms the prize ear by the husk, 
dumbfounded, as if, once and for all, size would matter. 
The world was opening, then, slowly, the bald globe 
of the Chairman's head spinning on its axis, facing 
millionaire farmer-host Roswell Garst in surprise, 
even suspicion, the polished heads of KGB brass orbiting. 
Whatever gravity moved the crowd to look, at that moment, 
away from the camera along with my grandfather, away 
from history's counterfeit, had the power of epiphany: 
epaulets, kerchiefs, and pinstripes÷all did an about- 
face.  Imagine a clockface, an exasperated darkroom tech 
later said, holding the dripping photo-wreck in one hand, 
phone in the other, feeling like a coach with a team shot 
of kids looking slant, a decision nearing when he would choose 
between my grandfather's integral world, local color, and the pic 
of the two great men cropped to suggest conspicuous isolation. 
In the end, the photo ran as is÷my grandfather and his ilk, 
horn-rimmed and befuddled at 11 o'clock, Krushchev and Garst 
alone, at three, with the bullhorn.

© by Z. Michael Jack


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