of someone’s Florida grandfather and the story of his tear

he was something of a Florida Michelangelo,
only he worked in white stucco
building homes for the Selbys
the Paynes, the Ringlings

he loved ducks, but thought they should be
put to better use than simply swimming aimlessly in ponds
and dreamed of sitting high atop an antique wagon
pulled by a team of ducks

there were times when he looked like
he was burning – doused in gasoline and
set on fire – but it was only the way he
parted his hair

every Sunday, after mass, he would get
a big 3-gallon pot, fill it with water, stick it
on the stove, and watch the steam rise and
laugh harder than he had since the previous Sunday –
this is the effect that steam had on him

many an evening he sat on the porch of his
white stucco Florida home making puffs of smoke,
cutting them out of paper bags used to buy
wedges of lettuce or high-priced laboratory equipment,
or when times were really good, when he felt that
anything was possible – such as a team of ducks
pulling an antique wagon – he cut up the white sheets
of his neighbor Mrs. Mable Paul he had emancipated
from their place on the laundry line, and he’d hook
a balloon filled with helium to each of the puffs of smoke
and watch them rise upwards against the brilliant Florida sunset
and he’d laugh and laugh for, in their own way, to him,
these helium-powered puffs of smoke resembled steam

he made a ruckus on more than one occasion,
and yet, whenever and wherever he would make a ruckus,
in the nearest empty lot he would erect a small
carefully manicured rose garden

he aspired to become a comic artist,
filling many sketchbooks with countless panels
of talking meatballs standing on two stick legs
discussing the great questions of Western philosophical thought
and then running from Mamma Ponzino

just like anyone, there were times he believed
he was caught in a time warp, and he’d be
standing face-to-face with a young Willie Nelson
telling him to pay his taxes, but not understanding
the who or why of it all before realizing he was back in 1934

he enjoyed making a detailed scale model of the North Pole
or a wristwatch or a travelling circus decimated by a killer flu outbreak
just as much as he enjoyed making a massive cactus out of
Spanish moss and leaving it in a busy intersection

his life’s motto was full of the simple, folksy wisdom
typical of Depression-era laborers –
“Give me a single sunflower seed, and I will make a necklace;
give me a necklace, and I will make a sunflower.”

after many years of hard labor, working in stucco,
and, with each finished home, seeing each of his dreams
dry out, he saved up enough money to afford
the addition of a tear-room in which he erected
a small marble pedestal upon which rested
a tear-shaped crystal decanter holding a single tear –
the tear for that which he genuinely weeped

and this is all we have of him
except for the stories people tell

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