09 April 2016

9 is rough rough


Only now I know what was happening—or
the other thing that was happening—when
we all listened so carefully, laughed on cue,

to that rich child of German immigrants, our
grandmother, go on about family—the brother
who became a senator, a sister who stole the love

of her father, and the father especially the father
who’d come all this way to make his fortune.
And had. A story of nuns and German prayers, one

about what the ice man said, and always the cherry
wood staircase her father ordered that the children
could only take on special occasions. That father

who sent three sons to law school a hundred years
ago now—all this, even the listening such worlds ago—
and four daughters to art classes. His liquor business

until prohibition, when he quit, saying, I didn’t come
to America to break its laws. Her audience: a husband,
her daughters, we grandchildren nod and nod, what

a good man, good father, oh the staircase. The mother
a cipher, maybe one mention of a trip from
the drugstore that dispensed her laudanum—and

no peep about grandpa’s parents, also immigrants
but from small, troubled towns outside Cork, poverty
like a dye no one could shake. Never did. Cherry wood,

really. I should say she was charming, so we gathered
close to be surprised by the end, the nuns wouldn’t

let her pray in German, amazing story, a stunner.