Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale



Blood Uncle (for my brethren in the world)

      I had this lost uncle so far as I knew, time of this first writing,
still living then in a trailer park just outside
the province interior's Shuswap First Nations band reserve.
Sometimes lost and alone, sometimes I suppose not so much less lost.
I know I've half a dozen cousins by him
there somewhere. Ian, Irvin, Ivanhoe...
('I' was for Indian I suppose? His lame alliterative family in-joke?)
Yes, old Supreme, he'd long been colourful. And of concern.
Youngest son of my immigrant Russo-Frisian grandparents
(the family blood-line already beautifully tinted, it was rumoured,
by some sly old-country gypsy—and that's another story...)
But, colourful, yes. Trouble is, Uncle always played it so blustering
loud you still can't easily get near him.
Dead or alive, still too loud to ever be sure you hear him.
But, to the much concerned churchly brethren I will say
if indeed he was/is as morally lost as presumed,
he, I suggest, might be about come, if arse-first,
back-slidden full round right by now. I'd think it some natural law.
(If not the anabaptists', if not the physicists'
then, perhaps sweet merciful love's law?)
Yes. Must be. Its old 'come full circle' law
which in the end true loving mortals can't but help obey.
So, you keep those wiry grey sideburns bristling, Uncle.
Dear uncle with that wrinkled salmonberry-stain birthmark
on your brow. You'll keep at it with that sweat-soaked Stetson
jauntily pushed back, sticking up the very sky.
That rough and cheesy old raw-hide vest, your wild fringes flying.
That gaudy gem-stone bauble and string-tie.
Those turned-up-nose 'authentic buckskin' cowboy boots and all,
bow-legged standing there in the eternal wishbone stance
(skinny, fragile, I'd say, always about to be broken?)
Loud as you live, tall as you talked, puffing menthol Export-A
in behind the wheel of your colossal skin-pink rattle-trap Galaxy.
In hiding behind bursts of your toothless, too-loud
full-throttle laughter. Long-term diabetic exhausted and exhausting.
      All I might have asked, Uncle, is to
someday sit down with you, in your rarest, quietest moment
lean back and share a long, hitched, heart-felt sigh.
Human to human. No bluster. Uncle, could we have done?
This though now I know, have had it confirmed you've died.
But yet just for a moment maybe, a teardrop in the corner of an eye,
come sit, at last, consciously in grace, and quieted. Guards down.
Just the slowed, rhythmic blood pulsing in our still-ringing ears.
Blood. (Uncle, in my own quiet way, some will say
I've been too-loud too.)

© Larry Nightingale




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