My grandfather was a great man.
My sister used to mix his drinks for him
when she was six
A pint of bourbon every day.
Smoked the walls gray
He was a good man.
Worked hard every day,
waxed his black broad Plymouth till the paint
My sister says he was a drunk,
a mean drunk,
I remember he had a tattoo on his arm
got it in Korea,
a woman with a fish-tail
and naked above the waist
He used to make her dance for me,
it always made me laugh
I've been told
My sister said he was a drunk,
a mean drunk
"fought Daddy in the street one time"
I don't remember that,
but I remember watching him mow the
and I remember the wind blowing cut grass
in my small eyes,
and him carefully and anxiously
trying to soothe me.
I remember him taking me to the
zoo and lifting me up
so I could look down into the well
in which the alligators swam.
I remember fear of being suspended
above a pit of alligators
but his hands,
his strong, working-man hands
and had me safe,
there was not a safer place on earth
but he was a mean drunk
my sister said, in my head
as I read the yellowed cut-out
that my father had saved from an old newspaper
of how a Tyler Water Works worker ran
up three flights of stairs in
a burning house to save
three young negro boys
who were trapped near an
upstairs window and shouting for help.
And this is East-Texas
with separate water fountains
and segregated schools,
and even if he drank too much
and even if Daddy was laughed at for
holes in his socks and being poor
Papa was a good man.
no matter what you say.----