One sober night, Frank talked about his dad.
You know, he said, Frank Sr. was a conjure man, and he had a way of magic that wasn't like all those other old men who called themselves conjurers.
Dad didn't rattle bones, or blow cigar smoke, or chant mumbo-jumbo, and he didn't summon nada and call it something. He didn't do of that phony scare-you-to-death stuff. He did something real, and a whole lot deeper.
Dad had this beautiful Stetson hat he called his "Stag O'Lee"
He wore it to special occasions, and when he got home, he'd fix himself a whiskey, light a cigarette, balance his hat on the table - tilted on the crown - and here's what
He would look inside
and watch his whole day
play back in living color
That hat was like the 11 o'clock news.
A few times, if I'd been out with him, he'd mix up some milk and cherry brandy for me, and let me watch.
That was fun stuff - and I liked that milk.
But the real deal with daddy and his Stetson would happen when I wasn't supposed to be around, and had to sneak my way to watch.
spiderwebs & dust
old oak tables
rickety chairs with cane backs
women and men
in dark clothes
drinking whiskey sugar sweet
with 7-Up or Coke
smoking up a blue haze
No music, no talk, no sideways glances
no sign of life except they were upright
drinking and smoking
up on a stage
into some dry wells
and dark holes
of who knows who's soul
running centuries of memories
moving his hat in a long arc
over those hunched over dark clothed
women and men
Good times would rise up
young men young women fast cars
house fires - cyclones - divorce - loss
brothers sisters gone missing
cancer - war
I could feel those things
Those old timers
I don't know
what they felt
sipping their drinks
sometimes shuddering just a little
sometimes a sob, sometimes a cackle
a revival in reverse
until daddy finished
that long sweep
of his hat -
end of show
time to go
those old timers -
one by one
or two by two - helping each other
bright light or
time of day
depending on them alone
by what they saw
or what they remembered
or how they felt.
Room empty, dad would salute the surroundings with an old fashioned flourish - hat in the air, and a deep, sweeping bow -
Dad went to deep places, and he paid by being like the air. He didn't belong to anyone, and there was no keeping him in one place,
until finally he was gone - just like the air.
Anyway, that was Frank Sr., that was my dad,
I don't do that stuff, and wouldn't want to know how anyhow.
Things happen to me
I just don't inflict them