Curtis Nash


  He was my Mom’s second husband,
the second man she knew.  Things not
permitted to tease about:
Though they stuck out from his crew cut
and seem to want pulling do not think
it is a good idea.  Even if grandma
laughs, never do that.  Even if his face
flushed bright red and his strong arms
flailed like a field mouse plucked and lifted
from the earth by the tail,
Never do that. 
Do not tease about smarts because
an eighth grade education in 1951
was enough when there were farm chores
and Korea. 
Do not brag about easy A’s in school.
Or winning at pool. Be quietly proud
but do not brag.  Do not question
if the rich details in the long-winded
stories he recounts from memory
actually happened.  For God’s sake.
Do not start the standoff. 
Just listen.
A skinny 16 year-old stepchild
and his skinnier, younger brother
should be less cocky if confronted
by a hard-boiled, unsettled,
very large stepfather.  Do not start
the wide-eyed furious standoff punctuated
by stories of how we were coddled soft. 
We would have to hear again
of his own stepfather, schooling
and instructing with whistling
hickory or steel-toed boots or fists
balled like white powder kegs.
And after the stories, the shrouded quiet
that smelled red from the back bedroom.

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