Victoria is hosting at the dVerse pub tonight and has asked for a poem with character development. She suggested the ekphrastic route and this pic came to mind. Kind of shot from the hip a bit (yeah, I know, what’s new), this is mostly stream of consciousness with very little editing. From what I have been told, James was certainly a real character.
It is difficult, perhaps impossible,
to reconcile man to myth,
with a picture in hand
and years of stories
cluttering the mind.
Vibrant in black and white,
confident, looking the part
of a man’s man in his
pressed suit and cocked fedora.
Remove implanted memories
and you can romanticize the image.
Convert the knowledge of moonshine
sold out of the back of a Tennessee
BBQ joint to runnin’ it down backroads
in the trunk of the Hudson — ninety to
nothin’ escapin’ crooked cops.
Mean does not show up on polaroids.
Controlling and angry are hidden in
still life. There were no pictures of wife
and kids hiding in the apple orchard
waiting for the shots to stop and the
whiskey to wear off.
I only remember seeing him twice.
Once at a truck stop, Mom agreed
to meet him when he came through
town, would not tell him where we lived.
He gave me circus peanuts, showed
me where he slept in his rig.
The other time was a surprise. We went
to visit his mother, she told him we were
coming. Mom was pissed he was there,
but he did let us go to his house (forbidden
before), go through some things,
collect a couple of memories.
A relative called, said his part of the headstone
had been engraved. Mom acknowledged.
Was there remorse after his wife died
and his children refused to speak to him?
Is there regret at not knowing
I wonder at times if he ever cared.
Maybe a bottle by his deathbed
was company enough.
It is hard to tell the difference between
a grandfather and a ‘real son-of-a-bitch’
in an blurry old black and white.