Image of Poetry

My grandfather had

Disdain for all ethnic

Groups Irish were Micks

Jews were Heebes

Germans were Dumb Dutchmen

Hispanics were Wetbacks

Blacks were ___________

Polish were Polacks

Italians were Wops or

Guineas he thought

All religions a money

Making scam he

Didn’t like politicians

(although he seemed to

like Margaret Thatcher

because she was a

“tough old broad”)

But meeting anyone

Face to face

He was friendly and

Polite but pretty

Light on the

Small talk and

Even though he ended

Up as a school janitor

He didn’t like FDR

He shook his head

In disgust he

Sighed a lot deep

Sighs of despair caused

By the stupidity

Of all people and the

Workings of the





My grandfather

Lived in Bed Sty

Brooklyn when

He was a kid the

Census lists the

Family as Black

In 1900, 1905, 1910

1915 but by 1920

They’d moved to

A different part

Of Brooklyn and

Had become White

His father was

A cook on sailing ships

(Lots of black cooks

Historically and then

The unions kept them

Out of other jobs)

His mother was

A seamstress “The old

Man,” my grandmother

Laughed, “was only in

Town long enough

To knock up

The old lady”

When my grandfather was

Born his father

Was in Palermo,

Sicily “I don’t think

There was a port

In the world he

Didn’t see,” my

Grandfather told me

His father had

Been shipwrecked

Twice once

Off the cost of Africa

And once off North

Carolina where he

Floated to shore

On the wreckage

While a champion

Swimmer on board

Drowned this seemed

To say quite a lot

To my grandfather



Once I asked him

If his last name

Could be Irish

“What?” he said

glaring at me

“It’s English!





I guess I

Was the only one

In the family interested in

Ethnic history

Because my skin

Was pretty dark

And I had curly

Hair like my grandfather

And growing up

Kids were always asking me

Hubbs what are you





Means Italian are

You Italian?

No, not Italian

Then what?

I didn’t know

I’d get a  kind

Of suspicious


My Grandmother is

From Ireland

I’d say

They’d give up

Shrug their


We’d go back

To playing




At some point

Someone told me

I must be Black Irish

What’s that?

I said From

When the Spanish

Armada sank and

The Spanish sailors

Came to shore

In Ireland

Oh I said

But when I

Visited Ireland when I

Was 19 and met

My Grandmother’s

Family and saw

That they were all

Fair skinned with light

Hair and my Aunt

In Dublin kept asking

Me What’s your

Mother’s last name?

What is it? Because you

Look like a Jew man

To me I

Had to conclude

That the dark skin

Came from

Somewhere else




My Grandfather worked

17 years at the

Jamaica Water

Supply Company

And all he would say

About it was

A guy doesn’t like

The way you wear

Your hair and

You lose your job

Then he was a

Plumber but the

Drink took hold

Of him and my mother

Tells the story

Of having to sit with

Him while he screamed

And shook

From the DTs and

Of when her mother

Got her up at night

As a little girl

And brought her

Down stairs to

See her father

Passed out in

His vomit and

Sleeping under the

Dining Room

Table and she said

Look and see

There’s your father

That you love so much

You see? You see

How he is?




I recall watching

Him make Slumgullion

Hunched over the

Cutting board

Wearing his  glasses

Cutting onions

He’d got the recipe

From his father

He said and said

That they ate it

A lot growing up

He was a skinny

Old man with

Only two teeth

And bent shaky

Hands scraping

Vegetables into

The pan

Of butter and

Yellow split peas



My Grandparents

Retired to a broken

Down farm house

In the country where

He built rooms and

Fixed the plumbing

And added a porch that

Looked out over

West Laurens

New York and

Built a two car garage

And a large garden

He’d stopped drinking

After falling down and

Cracking bones one

New Years Eve and

Being told by my

Grandmother she’d leave

If he ever touched

A drop again

I watched him

With interest

Hoeing weeds and

Singing to himself

I could just hear

His voice

From the woods

Where I waited

Wondering as

He leaned on the

Hoe and

Looked out across

The valley or

Watched a hawk

Circling above



It was years

Later I looked

Up the census

Records showing

My great grandparents

Were born in Barbados

One of the islands

People from Africa were

Brought by the English

Gentry to work

As slaves

On the sugar plantations