A poem from the past

My maternal grandmother and my father's maternal grandfather.

A version of the following poem appeared in my first chapbook, The Green Book, in 1981. My great grandfather was still alive at that time. The poem seems to me to speak to these times. I recently updated and shared it on one of the social media networks. I place it here to save in my own space.

Suspended Sentence

Grandmother, who taught me to read,
had a bombshelter beside her rock garden
and no faith in Kennedy

When crisis became status quo,
my great grandfather lifted the roof
of the cinderblock hole and raised goldfish
that grew, eventually, larger than trout

Grandmother painted Madonnas with child
and played Debussy in her “parlor”

I played war around a hackberry with four trunks,
fighting tanks camouflaged by the greenhouse

My brothers shot me with poles and I fell,
dead, to count one hundred, lying face up
with table talk coming back to my ears

I could feel then the spinning earth as it spins now

I thought, “The missiles will seem first like motes,
like stratospheric flecks beyond my glasses”

At fifty-nine, I ran, always for the shelter,
O Jesus help me make the shelter,
where the water lay unperturbed and one
great, golden carp would barrel-roll and dive

Now the carp are interred in mud and the shelter
is level with the ground

The scattered rocks are overgrown,
their place an eroding mound behind the house
where my great grandfather willed to outlive us

He knew cancer and ulcers, sickness and health,
and the death of three wives

He was the sharpest carpenter a town has ever seen

Pulling himself from bed, he muttered,
garrulous in anger that simmered for a lifetime
but mute on a verb sprouted from the tomb of fishes

the ghost of a current whispers, “Hope”