Monday Poem

Caresses and Cuffs

Silence thick as her stews sometimes
filled my grandmother’s house
but for the cars on 15
hissing toward Picatinny
on a wet night
big black Packards or Buicks
heavy as a hard life,
Chevy’s wide whitewalls
spinning over asphalt on a two-lane
before the interstate sliced through
a table in her living room
cluttered with snaps of Jim and Jack
Howard Frank Velma Ruth
Gladys Leo Leroy Pat; the lot of them
in by-gone black and white
mugging hugging beaming being
young as they’d been for the ages
for their tiny taste of time
their vitality a temporal joke
their smooth skin taut as the sky
on a blue blue day
a pillow-piled day-bed
against the front wall under a window
kitty-corner from the brown coal stove
radiating from October
till the geometry of earth and sun
more befitted blood & breath
fat chairs stuffed as her turkeys
on big Thanksgivings
all in this mist of imagination
as real as a pin prick, as
bright and huge as a moon,
crisp as frost
—memory’s a terrible and tender thing
the way it claws and cradles the day
its shadows and light shifting
like shapes of an optical illusion
filled with mercies and accusations—
the caresses and cuffs of
the lord

by Jim Culleny