my Slovak grandpa’s back

heading down the street in black:
jacket, pants, fedora lid

his arched-top lunch box also black
swung the rhythm of his pace

he walked to work solid as a Clydesdale
regular as tick and tock
determined as time, rough edged
but eased by love, came at 16 by ship,
left Carpathian white caps and shadows
leaving mother, sisters, their Slavic earth
in the dust of morning mist

no look back other than to insist
(to remind me that despite the hands on war’s ax,
the way it hacks people indiscriminately into nations)
that I was Slovak, not Czech, as if such distinctions
had meaning other than in the

…. word-making
…. myth-spinning
…. me-making
…. minds of men

Jim Culleny