The Hand He Shook   4 comments

I didn’t invite you into my life.
When I was born, you were already there.
You lived in my Papa’s car stereo
And my Granny thought you were a hunk.
The scenic route through rural Tennessee
Seemed more beautiful, more peaceful somehow
When listening to you sing songs about,
“The ‘G’ men, ‘T’ men, revenuers, too”.
In my mind, the hills leading to Carthage
Were the Carolina hills where they were
Searhin’ for the place where you made your brew.
Every other weekend, you let me know,
“It’s finally Friday, I’m free again”
And I did feel free with my grandparents,
Free from a broken home, free from my life.
How miserable was I bouncing from place
To place never knowing where home would be?
I was a boy without a stable home,
My grandparents lived four houses apart.
I could walk from Nanny and Papa’s house
To Granny and Pa’s. You lived with them both.
There was a trampoline in both back yards.
Papa didn’t listen to loud music,
Except when he was listening to you.
Your cassette was our soundtrack riding to
The flea market, our excitement building.
I was hotter than a two dollar pistol
And certainly the fastest thing around.
I still remember the heat of summer
As we looked around for second-hand loot.
Me with my blue raspberry Slush Puppy
And Papa eating his Polish sausage.
Nanny bought a sign. “Two old crows live here.”
The kiss of the air conditioner was
a welcome relief, and you were waiting.
You sang me to sleep and I napped back home.
My Granny had two stories about you.
The only song of yours she didn’t like
was your biggest hit. “When that song came out,”
She would say,
“Your dad had just broke up with his first love.
Every time I heard it, I thought of him.”
I think that she was right about my dad,
But his high school sweetheart wasn’t the girl.
My parents got divorced when I was three.
My father pined for my mother until
the day she died. And he still longs for her.
He said, “I will love her until I die.”
The years have went slowly by and she still
Preys upon his mind.
My Granny met you.
It became her favorite story to tell.
She stopped off at the Quick Sack for some gas
And cigarettes when she saw your tour bus.
She followed your name to Cracker Barrel
where you stopped for some sausage, I suppose.
Your crew got off the bus. You weren’t with them.
Pa was ready to go, Granny was not.
She knocked on the bus door, and you were there.
“Step right up. Come on in, if you’d like to
take the grand tour.” Welcome to the fan club.
You gave Granny an autographed picture
And shook her hand. When she would tell this story,
She’d say, “I’ll never wash this hand again.”
Time has passed.
Her hand is filled with formaldehyde now
And my Pa isn’t driving anywhere.
Granny and Pa never made it back to
Carthage. They both bought the farm in Portland.
Nanny had both her legs taken from her.
Now only one old crow lives in her house.
Papa sits. He is unable to walk.
The flea market left with his memory.
There are no trampolines in either yard.
No freedom.
My childhood is dead. It’s pillars are gone.
Memories of you are my memories.
You are my grandparents Now you’ve all left.
I’m a boy with a broken home again.
Who will stop this dissolution? Who is
Gonna fill their shoes? Who’s gonna stand that


Posted May 17, 2013 by Joshua A. Woodard in Poetry

4 responses to “The Hand He Shook

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  1. I love narrative poems like this. Truly a great read! Thanks for sharing. I will follow your blog and return to read more, for sure.

    I have a new writing blog that I created after self-publishing my first novel for the Kindle. Please check it out and share your writing experiences with me!

  2. One of my favorites! Beautifully written.

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