Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day 14: Ace


If it’s your grandfather
and you know he beat
a world champion bowler,

and you remember his voice,
and you own the chair where
he sat when he stretched out

Andy Varipapa’s name,
then you don’t care to hear
how square are his head

and his jaw, or how wide
the world opened before
his kind in 1948, the year

when he stood halfway
through his several scores,
maybe four score and ten

in Chicago, at the Neubling
Classic. He knew the heft
of what he held in his hand,

or had known. He was no Satan.
He wore that tie because he should
and, for him, it was no noose.

You can feel his backbone
in this chair where you write
and carry nothing very heavy

by hand. Your softer bones
will never fuse or form themselves
to his armchair’s old spine,

though your eye could be set
on a point to the left of the lens,
like his gaze at a woman, his wife,

or a trophy now lost, or making
nostalgia from the striking
game you believe you have seen,

when you remind yourself this:
He would go taut at ninety,
and you still believe every spin

he remembered, every single frame.

Notes: I have used this very photo a number of times as a prompt for a student writing exercise. Once, a student, having no idea the subject was my grandfather, Ace, wrote a line the likes of "You are Satan, and it is 1948." It was a brilliant poem. This, however, is not a brilliant poem. I made it a "you" poem on the general suggestion of Carl Dennis at a reading last fall in Wheaton. I don't know. Seems like a mighty sentimental draft to me so far.

Also, here's the trick bowler, himself, Andy Varipapa, whom my grandfather did beat in a competition. Also, two other people beat the pro that day, but we don't talk about that.


Ryan Michael said...
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Ryan Michael said...

That's a terrific photograph.

I love the line, "He wore that tie because he should / and, for him, it was no noose."