Rain strips the maple tree and scatters leaves
in my neighbor’s yard, insulting his sense of order.
Raking all day, he mounds them at the curb, curses
their tenacity and strikes a match. Like his anger,
the damp pile fumes. An acrid cloud crosses
the street to choke me
and there he is,
Mom exiled him to the garage…
No cigars in her house.
He laughed, headed outdoors
dragging and sucking a stogie
until the butt was so small he held it
with a toothpick to get the last puff.
We kids snickered, waiting to see him
singe his nose hairs.
Funny, I knew every fold of Grandma’s girth
but Grandpa was a stranger, an old man with a Tipparillo,
a bottle of beer and left-over fishing minnows
in the bathtub. I hardly remember
his voice—except when he hollered
that supper was late. I thought him ornery,
his face and opinions set in stone, hopelessly
out of touch.
His specter sticks in my throat now
and my eyes blur in the haze.
Gail Eisenhart’s poems have been published recently in Jet Fuel Review, CANTOS, Front Range, Barely South Review and in Flood Stage: an anthology of St. Louis Poets. A retired Executive Assistant, she works part time at the Belleville (IL) Public Library.