July 23rd, 2012
UNDERNEATH MY AMERICAN FACE
Gramps, through all the years of layoffs
And callbacks, you worked in
The factory laboring endless
From your first day in Detroit until you retired
From the Dodge Main line 33 years later.
Gramps, I sometimes wondered
What your life could possibly have been
With the exact same breakfast every day at 5:30 a.m.:
Two fried eggs, bacon, toast and coffee with condensed milk.
They say a man is
Measured by his soul.
I did know that yours was dark and blue,
But I never really understood much more
Of who you really were.
Gramps, who loved me more
Than any real father loves a son,
I see you now in an old black & white
Photograph standing next to
The neighbor’s brand new Desoto
And their small travel trailer. All the while I knew
You were only dedicated to one woman
Whom you loved for over 50 years.
Gramps, you were always
The one I admired—
You lived exactly what you believed: hard work,
A paycheck to keep life
Balanced and going,
And an occasional, small, treasured kiss.
You never needed much, Gramps, because you knew,
As I am learning now, it was never
About you. How silent
Your joy must have been alone
In your old battered Chrysler
That you drove back and forth
To work at the plant—
Like your own life—
It was enough to get you from here to there,
With nothing at all waiting for you
At the end other than a life
Well lived and complete.
–from Rattle #36, Winter 2011