From The Canals of Mars: A Memoir
Tomashek’s, when we finally reach it, is closed, its beer and whiskey signs replaced by boarded windows and a padlocked door. The building is three times larger than the ones that house the other local bars. That size would doom any sort of reopening in this decaying neighborhood.
“My football coach got himself killed in there,” my father says. “Drinking and money.”
I look again at the shut-down building and the deserted street. “Fats Skertich. He made a bet and there were words spoken about paying. Fats slapped a man, and that man went home, got a gun, came back, and killed him right there in Tomashek’s.” My father stares at the door as if he expects to see Fats Skertich walk out with his arm over the shoulders of my grandfather. “A baseball bet. It was summer.”
--(Michigan State University Press, 2010)
* * *
Whatever the Sunday, the sorrows kept the women
in the kitchen,
My cousins and their mothers, my grandmother, her sister,
all of them
Foraging through the nerves for pain. They sighed and rustled
and one would
Name her sorrows to cue sympathy’s murmurs, the first
Of possible cures: three eggs for chills and fever,
Of mint and pepper, boneset, sage, and crocus tea.
Needed came over-the-counter or through prescriptions
A promise from God, who blessed the home remedies
From the lost villages of Germany for the aunt
with dizzy spells,
For the uncle with the steady pain of private swelling;
for passed blood,
For discharge and the sweet streak from the shoulder.
In the pantry,
Among pickled beets and stewed tomatoes--the dark,
The vinegar and molasses sipped from tablespoons
So regular they spoke of them as laundry to be smoothed
by the great iron
Of faith which set creases worthy of paradise. And there,
A hum came clear, they might have been speaking from clouds
like the dead,
But what mattered when the room went dark was the voices
The lamp-lit living room of men who listened then, watching
And nodding at the nostrums offered by the tongues
of the unseen
As if the sorrows were soothed by the lost dialect
of the soul
Which whispered to the enormous ache of the imminent.
--From The Fire Landscape (University of Arkansas Press, 2008)
Both works used by permission of the author.