Blackberry Stains by Jay Passer

I got the weirding way
off my old Grandpa
at the old folk’s
Jewish home for the Aged
back in the 1970s
he was all alone
looked like a baby elephant
with black horned rim glasses
he couldn’t talk right
it was Parkinson’s that gripped him
he smelled of disinfectant and old people
he had to be translated by my father
he doddered and breathed hard
whispering to us kids
I was weird in the way that
I wanted to play baseball instead
even though I sucked at baseball
a liability in right field
an easy out and 9th in the batting order
closer now ear to Grandpa’s halitosis mouth
what’s that? said my dad
he asked you, kid
have you got a hit yet this season?
the near smile on the shaking head
still a sparkle behind the palsy
I was weirdest at the summer camp
forgot the toothbrush
played best in cow fields
unsupervised and Sundays now finally free
but when the old man picked me up from the bus station
to go home in late August of 1976
I already knew
I already knew Grandpa was gone
condolences I kept
to myself and the grieving
kept to the weird way I seemed
to hasten death
the monster child shaking
in a field of poppies
a letter from back home clutched in hand
hand stained with blackberry
pickings
a letter from the first girl
I ever asked
to go steady
the old man didn’t have any idea
my old man steeped in wonderment
when I asked without any prompting
how exactly did Grandpa die
“How in hell could you possibly
know?”
I couldn’t explain at the age of 11
I was labeled a freak alright
but even so
community was tight back in those days

Jay Passer's work has appeared online and in print since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth. His latest chap, Flower Omelette, co-authored with Misti Rainwater-Lites, is available from Lulu.

Jay Passer’s work has appeared online and in print since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth. His latest chap, Flower Omelette, co-authored with Misti Rainwater-Lites, is available from Lulu.

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