Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The House That Jack Built

This is the House That Jack Built

so says the plaque on the wall-
Jack was a carpenter,
born in Italy,
he came to America in 1910,
and built vacation houses
for textile-mill-wealthy Bostonians
on Cape Ann for 20 years,
and died of a stroke at age 46.
All that’s left of him are a few houses
and a tile plaque on a living room wall.

Jack drove trucks
filled with unknown chemicals
around New England for thirty years
and then his hair and toenails
started falling out,
and he had trouble breathing,
and he died in a small motel room
in southern New Hampshire,
surrounded by no one.

Jack served as a Battalion cook
in World War 2 and never
got closer than 25 miles to the front lines,
Even though they told him
that an army travels on its stomach,
he always felt a little guilty
and embarrassed,
and would never talk about
what he did in the war
as he sat on the barstool at the VFW
downing Heineken after Heineken.

Jackie waited tables
every night for fifteen years
at a fancy French restaurant in New York,
and three times a week
the maitre d’ would bend her over a box
in the walk-in freezer
and screw her
and she never said anything
because she was going to put
her two kids through college
if it killed her.

Jack was a firefighter for thirty-two years,
and he played the dog races in Revere
every weekend,
and raised six kids,
and 15 grandkids,
and never regretted anything.

Jack was a trash hauler
in Hoboken, New Jersey
and he wrote poetry and short stories
every night as he sat, alone,
in his one-bedroom walk-up apartment,
and after he died
the landlord took it all
and stuffed it into cardboard boxes
and put them out on the curb
for the trash men.

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