By Charles Bane, Jr.
My grandfather was set to work at twelve in the mines; he and my grandmother lived in a small frame house beside railroad tracks, in Springfield, Illinois. Visiting them was the solace of my childhood. My grandfather would climb into bed with me at night. He told me that in the morning my grandmother would be waiting to make me pancakes, with all the syrup I wanted. He said the morning would be beautiful, and he added in the dark, I would live to see it. No one had ever spoken to me like this, with his unvarnished understanding. The tenderness of it remains in my work, like the microwave background from the Big Bang.
Early in the morning, we would walk to Costy's Tavern so my grandfather could have a boilermaker. I liked to watch him drink, but most of all I loved the way he regarded me. He took a shot glass of whiskey and slipped it into his beer mug, like a swimmer going over the side.
He asked me my heroes. I might have answered Jim Thorpe, or Eddie Rickenbacker. I said Shakespeare. Shakespeare is a living person to me; he doesn't tire in his work but there is a race mark in his sonnets where he views the last empty stretch of the page and summons home the incandescence of the last stanza.
Shakespeare, Grampa repeated, and looked at me evenly and nodded assent. In that moment, I worshipped my grandfather. Consider Spanish, French, Italian, German; each one, beautiful. But my great fortune was English: plastic, depthless, able to express the inexpressible. Donald Hall has chided me for using words like "dart", and "cup". But what poet has never thought himself a bird? Grampa listened, drank.
New poems come. I haul words onto a drudge, pull a chain, turn a wheel, and watch the ore moving upward to the light.
Charles Bane Jr. is an American Poet. Curbside Splendor published his first book The Chapbook (July 2011) and will publish his second book New Poems (October 2012) via Concepcion Books, a new Curbside imprint.