Not to be confused with my university’s open mic night, this is a poem about my late great-grandfather. Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent with him. He would have turned 102 last week.
It’s unlikely people can get away with raising a kid this way now, but I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with someone from a vastly different generation. Besides, how many 77 year olds do you know who would placate a small child by not only allowing them to pretend they’re a bartender, but also by telling them how to mix cocktails? My great-grandpa was ace.
I am eye level with the faded tattoos on his arms.
I am four feet tall, and this is my bar.
“What can I get ya?” I ask my only customer.
“I’ll have a Tom Collins today, please, bartender.”
I feign pouring from bottles of grenadine and gin
As he talks about life and the places he’s been.
I am seven years old. I want to hear more
From my customer, born before both world wars.
But he’s in the mood for playtime and jokes,
So he sips from his glass of bourbon and Coke
(Two every day, for as long as he could)
And sings the old song from his own childhood –
The one about ‘beautiful Katy’ and the moon shining
Over the cowshed. I can’t stop myself smiling.
He says many politically incorrect things
But I don’t yet know what those two words mean.
It’s still only 1987,
So though I am small, I get the impression
That he simply dislikes everyone the same.
But I know he loves me, and the dog, and our game
Where I’m the tiny proprietor of this tavern; owner of the Pabst sign,
The food and drink menus, written in crayon and taped to the walls,
And the lamp at the end of the counter announcing: “BAR”,
With the Prohibition-era drunk in mid-twirl round its base.