PROSPECTS

my grandfather

was Irish

so he drank

a wee bit

sometimes

most of the times

he felt like it

and he felt

like it a lot

a lot of the time

 

my grandfather

Martin

was handy

with his mitts

a shovel

a pick

he was at home

in the dirt

following his nose

his eyes

alert to veins

in the earth

 

my grandfather

was a rock

hound who scanned

the ground

for gold &

silver deposits

of ore in stone

whatever paid

he assayed

by lantern

light in a one-

room shack

the jeweler’s

glass tucked

into his eye

socket

 

my grandfather

visited us

for a week

each year

showed his stash

of shiny rocks

some heavy

some colored

some crystalline

wonders he’d roll

with his fingers

so they’d glitter

in the light

 

my grandfather

doodled

Irish ditties

tapped his feet

nipped at a jug

of whiskey

in his valise

his brogue

a foreign song

to my ears

to some

 

my grandfather

was a joke

a crazy dreamer

& deadbeat mick

a travesty

in the mouths

of those

sanctimonious shit-

heels who spoke

behind his back

about his wife

& kids

scrounging

pennies for

eggs & potatoes

while he was off

striking it rich

but not

it’s true

 

my grandfather

drank a lot

of his paydays

got in more than

a few fights

he couldn’t walk

away from

he hated bullies

injustice

the blind arrogance

of comfort

those silent

generations of English

who took their tea

regularly as Irish

died hungry

 

my grandfather

believed

in this land

of opportunity

the freedom

to roam

to dig

to stake a claim

& break away

from the bonds

he’d known

all his life

the hopeless

promise

of poverty

 

my grandfather

was a blue eyed

dreamer no black-

Irish blues singer

but he knew

the rhythms

of labor

the arc of the pick

his breath danced

with hand tools

to dig ditches

& sewers

graves & cesspools

glory holes

& stope muck

 

my grandfather

lived for

the moments

he could

scratch & sift

fractured rock

through callused

hands palm

nuggets he’d carry

home in a bag

to be graded

& tagged

spread out

across his table

 

my grandfather

wasn’t deterred

by those who looked

down their noses

at his schemes

he became a slag

monk of sorts

after my grandmother

sent him packing

back to Glen

Montana where he

found himself

a mountain

of iron ore

 

my grandfather

drank daily

& wintered well

under the tarp

on his bed

broke ice

on the water

bucket mornings

in his shack

to wash his face

wipe the sleep

from his eyes

then toddle on

down to Grogan’s

Bar for breakfast

 

my grandfather

ordered two

in the water

& a boiled spud

was proud of

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

& wasn’t surprised

when they shot him

dead he ordered

a shot of house

whiskey & butter

for his tea

it was as close

to Ireland

as he could get

at 10 below zero

in Beaverhead County

waiting for

the flow

the luxury & ease

of opportune dreams

to wash over him

& warm the day’s

prospects

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One Response to PROSPECTS

  1. marcogibbo says:

    David J. Spear took the photo in west-central Montana in the 1970s.

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