My Grandfather on a Summer Evening
(after Mark Strand)
When the summer sun slants
towards the horizon, casts its eerie light,
the shadows of the peach and quince trees lengthen
on the grass, the Rose of Sharon glows stark white.
My grandfather, a cigarette between his thumb and forefinger,
a glass of brandy on the table by his side
sits on the porch and looks down upon his small domain
his reward for hours days weeks months years
spent in the dark of the shoe factory
stretching pieces of leather over wooden forms.
Soon the red-hot cinder of my grandfather’s cigarette
the cold flickering light of the fireflies
will dot the darkness, and still he will sit,
ponder the marvels of Ancient Greece,
Alexander who hailed from his own small piece
of that great territory, ponder the wonders of the universe--
as if thinking could protect him.
My grandfather will come indoors,
his thoughts will come with him
as the fruit trees, the shrubs, the currant
and the blueberry, dig their roots in deeper,
in his garden the cornstalks grow silk
tomatoes turn from green to red.
He will settle into his dark oak Morris chair
drape his arms over the carved lions’ heads.
Then he will look up, notice me
sitting in front of him on the leather Turkish cushion. He’ll lean forward
our knees touching now, take my hands in his:
“There is only one God, and He loves everyone
no matter how small.”
This poem was inspired by another from Mark Strand, 1979, "My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer." Click here to read it. The artwork shown is an editorial selection and was not the prompt for this poem.
Leah Johnson is a poet, writer, teacher, and musician. She was a full-time professor in the Writing Studies Program at American University in Washington, DC. for twenty-years and is a member of the Surrey Street Poets. Her work has been published in Green Mountains Review Online, The Healing Muse, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. In previous incarnations, she has been a journalist, co-founder and artistic director of Georgetown’s Dumbarton Concert Series; US coordinator for Yehudi Menhuin’s outreach program Live Music Now!, and a piano teacher.
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