By Therese Gleason
for my grandfather
When Daddy was a boss
at the telephone company
we lived at the big house backed up to the railroad.
There was a sliding board, a sandbox, a goat
we could harness to a little cart,
and a live-in nanny, Henrietta
with her twisted arm.
We had indoor plumbing
and a great big car.
When Maymie wasn’t sick
we went to Daddy and Uncle Gus’s club:
the plushest roadhouse in southern Indiana
perched at the top of Floyd’s Knobs
with only one road out and one road in
where pretty dancers gave me and Kotzie
fizzy drinks with paper umbrellas
and a Maraschino cherry.
The rooms were full of smoke and music,
ladies with black stockings and red lips
men in double-breasted suits
hair slicked back
clinking glasses tinkling with ice cubes,
revelers who had crossed the Ohio
after sundown to play cards and craps.
Upstairs Daddy’s man
sat at the window on top of the toilet
with a rifle between his legs
overlooking the 80-foot drop,
scanning the highway’s seven hairpin curves
for feds and cops, roulette wheels
spinning, fortunes turning all night long.
Once, when no one was looking
I pocketed a chip: cream-colored,
printed with a dark green pine.
Good thing Maymie had stashed
a suitcase of cash under the four-poster
before the Crash, the handcuffs, the raid,
before Daddy got the dropsy
and we moved in over grandpa’s store,
before me and Kotzie woke up one morning
to find Henrietta cold and dead
lying in bed between us.
Therese Gleason is author of two chapbooks: Libation (selected by Kwame Dawes as co-winner of the 2006 South Carolina Poetry Initiative Competition) and Matrilineal (Honorable Mention, 2022 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize, New England Poetry Club). Therese’s poems appear/are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Atlanta Review, Indiana Review, Notre Dame Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Therese lives in Worcester, MA with her family. She works as a reading teacher and is a poetry editor for The Worcester Review. Find her at theresegleason.com.