Friday, March 07, 2008

AVUNCULUS (abridged)
In memory of James Marino, 1925-2008

The boy tail gunner came home
with stories of fighting men and airplanes
and taking a dump over the English Channel;
taught his brothers and sisters the songs of soldiers,
and married a pretty girl before Thanksgiving dinner ....

He teases my mother,
who married a Polack, and won't buy junk food
Then he takes her shopping
and they talk basketball
the way she once did with my father.
And he sang to his dog in merry Italian
and mourned her for months when she died of old age
and he cried at my wedding,
and during taps at my father's funeral,
and he calls my husband nephew.

In the rain forest he would have fed us
brought my mother meat from the hunt
and eaten at her table
and raised a niece born with his temper
and the face of her father's sister
while his own children ran with their uncles.

After a thousand phone calls
and a hundred thousand irritations
my mother calls me by his name
then apologizes and laughs,
"Did I tell you what Jimmy said to me yesterday?"
and under the giggle I hear
the girl who sat with Mama and Papa
beside the old Philco
waiting for news of the war in Europe,
crying with fear for her little brother.


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