He smelled of pipe tobacco,
Prince Albert to be precise.
His soft jaw with a half day’s stubble looked scratchy,
but I never ventured to touch it and find out.
A dark amber bottle – Blitz beer — perpetually clamped in one hand,
his pipe in the other. Sometimes lit, sometimes not
(both he and his pipe),
He didn’t talk a lot. At times it seemed
he wasn’t listening much either,
but then his face would suddenly brighten, and –
with eyes sparkling — he’d begin recounting a story or a joke.
Mom would shush him. “Not in front of the kids.”
Dad would chuckle as if he knew the ending anyway,
and Grandpa Clyde would sit back and take a swig of his beer,
satisfied at getting a rise out of my mother, even if
he never got to finish his story.
I imagined he had a lot of stories to tell.
I imagined him as some kind of O. Henry character,
cloaked in enigmatic layer upon layer
that never quite unfolded in daylight.
Despite his presence at Sunday dinners for most of my childhood,
I never felt I knew him; never heard the punch lines that made him laugh;
never learned the O. Henry-esque twist endings to his stories.
If someday we meet in the “great beyond”
(per my mother’s portrayal of him, it likely won’t be in heaven),
we can sit by the fires, Prince Albert mingling with sulfurous air,
beer bottles sweating in our warm hands.
He can tell his stories. Or not.
I can touch the stubble on his cheeks. Or not.
Regardless, there’ll likely be mischief in his eyes, and – likely —
I’ll leave still not having cracked the mystery
of my grandfather.
dVerse Poetics: On Profiles and Portraits. The Challenge: write/create a profile/portrait in your verse.