They don’t respect me, those respectable people,
but what of it? They look at me—this missin’ tooth
I never gut the money to replace; the way my spine curves,
see? like a sideways letter S, but that ain’t my fault—
God was the one who did that.

He wanted me to learn through sufferin’ and become
a better person—sure: I’m a goddam Christian martyr!—
or I bet I was intended for people to say:

Let’s be grateful for the blessin’s we got.

Of course, that don’t explain why anybody should laugh.
Especially the men. But I’ve had them.
Only one at a time—I gut my standids—we’ll have
a few beers and some laughs. They pay my bills
and move in—Marie’s little welfare system, I call it.

Maybe it wasn’t good for the kids, these Uncle Macs and Uncle Joes
livin’ with us, but I gave them love, those kids. I did.
Once for Billy, when he was three, I had Junior Babcock pay
for some woolen yard goods, baby blue, beautiful and soft,
and I sewed an Easter coat for Billy. It took a week,
as hard a job as sewin’ a coat for myself.

I don’t blame the kids for getting’ the hell out of Gladstone
first chance they gut, but I feel the baddest about Billy.
He’ll call me or write sometime. I’ll bet on it.

I can sew anythin’, so when I heard that cow Mrs. Ellison
say they needed recital costumes for their little girls,
I told the ladies I could sew them. So they gave me the directions
and all the yard goods and these bells and bows and braids.

It was a hell of a lot of work and they didn’t pay me much,
but I delivered them all the day of the recital. I gut my own
good idea to stick on the bells and braids and bows with Scotch tape.

And when I heard how the little darlin’s danced up a storm
and the bells and braids and bows came flyin’ off and fallin’ off
all over the stage at the junior high, I laughed and laughed
and felt real good. You can bet I felt real good.


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