by Dan Senn

Elmer Bender,
born in 1889,
the toughest sonuvabitch
who ever lived,
like to say
that a relative,
who drove new Buicks,
and wore fancy clothes,
“didn’t have a pot to pee in
or a window to throw it out.”
this, just under
his tobacco breath,
at our dining room table.

Elmer was a scary dude
which belied his nickname,
unless you imagined
a pistol firing,
as he ruled with
death beams
and grunts of displeasure.

A Baptist, amazingly.
who smoked,
drank a little,
just like his father, Phillip,
was oddly enchanted
by classical music
and watching
people labor,
a common practice
 in those days.

while I was fixing bricks
on our falling down
he brought out
a dining room chair,
sat, and watched me
never saying a word
while smoking,
but not inhaling,
his curvy pipe.

At dinner,
I would sometimes
disagree with him,
the only fool that dared,
causing his neck
to turn beat red
with my brothers, sisters and parents
bolting under the table
where the dog,
shaking Taffy,
awaited them as if
an earthquake had struck.

Pop hated to be questioned
and loved me for it
cuz I had spine,
could lay brick,
and liked Dvorak’s
New World Symphony.

Once, along with Pop,
at the grocery store,
some children,
out of hand,
were throwing fruit
and laughing…
he barked
like cracking joist
“You’re raising criminals here!”
followed by
that cold stare
that settled dust,
giving clasp
to their mother’s hands
as they dipped behind
their push cart.

Grandpa left school
after 8th Grade,
cuz he didn't pass
the State German Exam,
and went to work
at the lumber yard, Westside,
where he stayed
for 55 years
mostly as yard forman.
In the evening
he gardened,
listened to Dvorak,
read the Reader’s Digest,
and dreamt of
Lincoln, the Roosevelts,
and Grant.

In the seventh grade
out at Clark Park,
I smacked a line drive,
sprinted to first,
stepped hard on the bag,
and broke my knee
in ’63.

sitting in the bleachers,
came running out,
in his arythmic,
arthritic gate,
picked me up like a leaf
and carried me
to his Pink Rambler.

He was toughest,
on the planet.

011119 DS
ęDan Senn 2019