The pie, my god Anthony, the cherry pie!
And pumpkin with the heavy cream a crown
sliming on top, and chicken wings and fries
and all the roadside pleasures you desire.
It’s been a nice car ride with you, curly friend,
up 86 and 20 and the snaky routes of WNY
until at last we reached this diner here
among the browns of late autumn in Chaffee
near the old Dodge-Chrysler lot where my father
rode away in dozens of red cars. Jim Shaw,
a good man, resting now, his shop kitty corner
to Earl’s fine corner booths and Coke floats
and did I mention the bounty of fresh-baked pies?
Good Lord! The flavor hangs unlike the slick silk
ties of businessmen but like a big belly
over the belt, the town worker awaiting
his pension by eating. God rest ye merry
gentlemen, dear Earl and Jim and all Jims and Earls
in the ground and on surgery lists
and counting down the days until retirement.
Your plaid tablecloths are my bible.

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There are two Bobbies in my life, or were,
as they’ve since both flitted from me like summer bugs.
The first: Bobby Harrigan, who plopped a toy
truck on the map carpet we sat cross-legged on
and drove straight through the kindergarten ice
with a, “Do you want to be my friend?” I didn’t know
because what was a friend then? But sure, we agreed
there, as crawling monkeys in the classroom.
He asked the same of all the boys, come to find out,
and most girls except for Brittany with the weird
hair. Eventually, I opted for Matthew C. and Adam,
their luxurious coolness won over Bobby’s fruit-fly
persistence (even his gift-giving needed work).

We uprooted eastward in ’97
and again I fell in with a troublemaker
for his wrestling cards and talk-back attitude,
then split up when we moved again. Alone,
for the first time without a Bobby propositioning
me with genteel friendship. No Bobbies in the new class,
but Bobby on TV — the youngest Brady.
Adorable curls and goblin grin, he wanted
the world to be his friend, and I lived in that world
though mostly in my living room under the coffee table,
occasionally bumping my head. Bobby Brady:
future paraplegic, present amigo,
foundation for an unfolding life of tying strong
to fiction and feelings, however they spill out.

Your later ripped flannel shirts and papery hands

belied your early strength as a firefighter.

Clapping out blazes, heaving coughy infants

over your shoulder, getting your name in the paper,

back-braced and finally making it to captain.

Your five children surrounding like brittle pedals

and you the holding center, the master crop,

though humility and rosaries bound you to serve.

In projections now, we see the smiling Earl

at a bean pan on the stove, pulling switches in the basement,

fetching his nightly get — Genesee beer,

American-red and pop-top — and sinking in

the orange armchair drinking eleven’s news:

the king now in the corner rests at ease.