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.

About Maggie C

Stained glass artist, writer, respecter of life.
This entry was posted in poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Portrait

  1. Frank Hubeny says:

    Nice description of his mysteriousness: “cloaked in enigmatic layer upon layer
    that never quite unfolded in daylight.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. canwan26 says:

    I really like this Grandpa Clyde poem. It made me smile from the very beginning. And you paint the picture so perfectly. I know exactly the smells, the twinkle, the personality. Very nice portrait.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great poem and portrait!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really like the image of him and though entirely different my maternal grandfather was also an enigma, especially when I heard some of the stories of him as young.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rob Kistner says:

    A mystery locked in an enigma. Sounds like a very interesting guy thank you for sharing this Maggie.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. AH, I love it! Such deft storytelling and portraiture — the pertinent details and your perceived experiences give it a wonderful depth and meaning. This is my favourite bit, in this overall engrossing poem: “He can tell his stories. Or not./I can touch the stubble on his cheeks. Or not.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My dad used to tell us that when he was a kid that he and his brother would cold call people and ask, “Do you have Prince Albert in a Can?” If the person said, ” yes”, they would ask “Then why don’t you let him out?” and hang up. Dad used to laugh and wipe his eyes and blow his nose remembering.
    Lovely poem, brought my dad to life, he never shaved on Sunday morning, i loved to touch the stubble that furred his cheeks by supper time.

    Liked by 1 person

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