My grandfather’s Slovak back
receding up the street in black jacket,
black fedora-topped,
in hand an arched-lidded
lunch-stuffed box
with the rhythm of his pace

walked resolutely to work
solid as a Clydesdale,
regular as
the tock and tick of clocks
firm and unyielding as time
but with edges eased by tough love
came by ship at sixteen remembering the Carpathians,
his mother, sisters, their Austro-Hungarian farm
leaving all in the dust of morning mists
never looking back other than to say to me,
to insist, that despite the indiscriminate
hand of war’s carving,
the way it hacks empires 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