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My grandfather at 90 chews my mom’s roast chicken
and banana bread, his dentures slipping loose.
A widower now, he cries often, for, as he says,
no good reason. Then he cries again.
Amid a lull in our family’s conversation,
he announces, I would’ve been a Methodist
minister if my father had ever taken me to church.
The only child of a denturist,
my granddad played high school football,
then mended metal in the Philadelphia
shipyard, the ruckus of rivets and shrieks of drills
hammering his hearing. (It’s hard to see him
young and strong, skin glistening with sweat
as he muscles steel into place, bantering
back and forth with his fellow workers.)
He married, had two daughters, one, my mother,
and between them, a son, his namesake,
who died in his crib. (The reason why, many nights,
I leaned in close to feel my own babies’ breath
on my face.) Years later, inheritance in hand,
he bought a gas station in Jersey, running it till the oil
crisis—and Ryder Trucks—picked
his pockets clean of such ambition.
So he began again, gnawing on the meat
in the motto he often preached:
You gotta roll with the punches, kid.
He went into sales, helping businesses put their ads
on pens and calendars and thingamabobs with puns—
like the hockey puck that read, Puck Off!
each one a means of everyman’s survival.
His greatest joys and losses, we thought we already knew.
Spread across our table like the cloth my grandmom sewed
lies his life now before us—one long-kept secret
stitched into the crosses he has borne,
the fabric of his story finally unfolded.

Photo by Diane Picchiottino on Unsplash

Julie L. Moore

A Best of the Net and eight-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Julie L. Moore is the author of four poetry collections, including, most recently, Full Worm Moon, which won a 2018 Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Award and received honorable mention for the Conference on Christianity and Literature's 2018 Book of the Year Award. Recent poetry has appeared in African American Review, Image, Quartet, Sojourners, SWWIM, Thimble, and Verse Daily. Learn more about her work at