Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, May 19, 2011


by Robert E. Petras

I never knew my granduncle,
my grandfather’s brother, who
died before I was born
in bed, I am told, praying Slovak.
But I knew his son, my cousin,
knew only his handshake.
After every handshake, my cousin
would say: “Come up and see me some time.”
I did—some thirty years later
when he was ninety
and I was at the edge
of a promise.
His grasp was now one
of a boney three-fingered claw.
From his flannel shirt pocket
he pulled out a pack of Union Workman
and extended a quivering hand
toward me.  “Do you want a chew?”
I had not chewed since I bailed hay
for my grandfather, who had taught
me how to chew tobacco
and how to cuss in Slovak.
I remembered the first time.
I remembered the gut explosion
and the green flush.
This was another first time.
But I took the pouch
and when I reached inside the tin foil
I touched hands with his father.
when the chew hit my mouth
I received his communion.

1 comment:

  1. Nice poem, especially the last 5 lines which are a fine example of the difference between poetry and prose masquerading as poetry.