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July 22, 2013 | Poetry

5 Poems

Andrew J. Khaled Madigan

5 Poems photo

 

In first grade

we had to make
a little booklet
about our dads.

You take a sheet
of paper, fold it
fold it again

and then draw
a picture
on every page.

Well, on the cover
I had my dad sitting
behind a big desk

There was a flag
on either side of him
and one of those executive

pens sets front and center.
On the next page
I drew a picture

of my dad holding
a rifle and another guy
with bullet holes

all over his body. Since
he was Vietnamese
I made him wear one

of those triangular hats
with the chin strap. Later
we had to stand up

in front of the class.
“This is my dad,” I said. “In the war
he shot a guy in the back.”

Dad was pretty upset when I
told him about this.
The next day I had to go back

and do my presentation over. I
had to say that my dad
shot a guy in the front.

 

1975, the new rec room

Sometimes I think
of the newsman
Harry Reasoner

(remember him?)
and wonder if that
was his real name.

 

my endtable

Shelley was the first

but when I got to
college

dabbled in drugs
and realized

how absurd
everything was

I turned to Richard
Brautigan.

One day I put away
all my rock t-shirts

and picked up a copy
of The Whitsun Weddings.

(Very nice.) Now I’m older
my hair is gray

and I have pains
where I’d never even had places.

I read Bukowski
late into the night.

Things aren’t going very well.

 

Old Keene Mill Road

Back when I was a kid
a man used to stand
on the median
of that little street

next to the library
where it ran into
Keene Mill Road.
It was the bad

part of town
or at least the baddest
part we had.
There were shabby

apartments down the block
where all the people
spoke Spanish and
the hallways smelled funny.

Mom took
me there once
to give a casserole
to someone from church.

Only poor people
live in apartments.
That’s what someone
told me at school.

Anyway this man
wore ragged old clothes
and it always looked
like there was dirt

all over his face. He
would stand there
with a little sign
it had something to do

with Vietnam
but I don’t remember exactly.
He had another sign
smaller, that said


Will work for food but I never
saw him do any work.
Sometimes people would
roll down the car window

and give him a little change.
He didn’t say much
and neither would they
but the window

would go back up
pretty fast.
We didn’t have homeless
people back then

so I guess he
was just a bum.

 

I didn’t know you could do that

Once, my dad bought a basketball hoop
for the backyard. It was attached to a thick
wooden pole.

First, my older brothers had to make
a big hole with a post-hole digger. Then,
they stuck the pole inside and held it

steady. I think Mark had to do that.
Tom was making funny noises and
JP told him to shut up. Anyway,

the hole was too big so my dad
got the wheelbarrow and started
mixing up a big bag of cement.

I couldn’t believe it. I thought only
the men who worked for the city
making sidewalks were allowed to

mess with cement. I guess anyone
could do it, though. It looked like
gray mud and it took all night to

set. I wanted to write my initials in
it, but I wasn’t allowed to. The next day
after dinner, we got the ladder out

and I climbed up and put the net
on the rim of the basketball hoop
and that was really cool. We shot

baskets until it got dark and then
went out for ice cream, which almost
never happened. Someone hosed off

the wheelbarrow, but it never got
completely clean. There were always
these little chunks of cement

around the edges and stuck to the
bottom. I’d forgotten all about it
until last night when I had to clean

out Dad’s garage and get rid of all
his old junk.

 

image: Caleb Curtiss


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