my Slovak grandfather’s back

receding up the street in black:
—jacket, pants and fedora lid
his arched-topped lunch box also black
swinging at the rhythm of his pace
as he resolutely walked to work
solid as a Clydesdale regular as tick tock
unyielding as time, rough edges
eased by love, came by ship at sixteen
leaving white caps and shadows of Carpathians,
leaving his mother, sisters,
their earth of Slavic roots
leaving them in the dust of morning mists
no look back other than to insist
(to remind me that despite the indiscriminate
hand of war’s carving,
—the way it hacks peoples to 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