Monday Poem

Like The Old Harry

….. –for my father, Jim

My father was an opaque poet
of blue collar verse
who’d sling odd terms
from the corner of his mouth
opposite the one holding
the lip-gripped cigarette
issuing curlicues of smoke
which circled his cocked head
his eyes squinting from their sting
his playful gags filled earcups
from which I, with fresh curiosity, drank
to quench a thirst for the secret
stuff of words

“Up Laundry Hill,”
he’d say to my question,
“Hey, dad,where you goin’?”

as if the place he was headed beyond the door
was a high meadow in which my grandmother
with a bar of brown soap
might scrub shirts by a slow river
and hang them to dry on lines strung tree to tree
as an August sun drenched them with a bounty
of white light and a day’s-worth of heat

Like the old Harry was his expression
for the speed of a world that moved
like the Old Harry as I, in new Keds
ran, not like the wind, but like the Old Harry,
a quick little shit on white rubber soles
consuming the universe of our yard
in nanoseconds

Whoever Old Harry was my dad knew him well—
knew he could outrun light when it came down to it
despite the equation upon which Einstein,
regarding questions of velocity, stood

—there’s more to earth than science:
the music of syllables
the humor in their arrangements
the unexpected flash of odd conjunctions
the comfort of the syntax of tradition
the sudden crack of their smart whip
which sometimes sends us like the Old Harry,
in a sprint, up Laundry Hill

Jim Culleny