March 4, 2012

Scott Withiam

HIM TO PICKLES

My grandfather laid rail
toward cities he claimed
no interest in.
The day his buddy fell
off of their flat car home and died,
he traveled as far
as his bulkhead, down to his basement,
to the walled, dank quiet
and never, really, came out
of it, as we say. He lost
one son to lockjaw. He went soft,
opened a haberdashery,
felt and cloth.

A war came. The store failed.
His only son left, but came home.
As his grandson, I knew none
of the above, only what I loved,
as it should be, him,
and at the base of the stairs,
off to the side, in the dark,
his sweating crock,
in it, bread & butter pickles curing,
the round wooden cover
slid away sounding
like the cover on a well,
only deeper,
and if not slid back,
signaling

my grandfather floating up
bright-eyed into the kitchen,
holding up
his pickles in a glass measuring cup;
but not for measuring, only to view
the sugar-slowed brine,
swelled mustard seed,
all of those onions
translucent,
tamed. All this plunked down
on the table between us.
Him saying, “You’ll never
taste anything like these again,”
more to himself.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011