Saturday, May 05, 2007



5:30 A.M.

The kitchen light shone
through my bedroom door
a yellow stripe across my bed
my father at the table
a cigarette burning in the ashtray
his hands, tattooed
wrapped around a cup of coffee

not the middle of the night
like it seemed
the hum of the electric clock
the faint whistle
of my father breathing through his nose
he looked at me
I shut my eyes

he worked at the auto plant
hoisting motors with a crane
repetitive hell


He told me once
while drinking
and I believed him
that he was going to sail
around the bottom of South America
like Magellan
I knew Magellan
from my “Breastplates and Buckskins” history book
I pictured him on a schooner
sails bloated by wind
pelted by rain
I worried until my stomach burned

that night
I smashed a neighbour’s picture window
they came out with flashlights
I was four feet away
stretched out in their garden
dark and still
to hear their rage
the woman cried
her husband held her
he searched the yard over her shoulder
I stayed in the soil
listened to them sweep glass
bang in a piece of plywood
I was happy not to move
no one knew where I was
that’s what I did
I would have gotten “A”
my effort


The impala
parked at a distorted angle
like he pulled in and kept on going
to turn in circles until he ran out of gas
reaction time
numbed by booze
half cut, half in the bag, looped
smashed, fall down drunk
the crooked car is my clue
and his mirrored sunglasses
like a bad sheriff


I beat him at snooker
in our dark-paneled rec-room
a fish tank on a bench by the dryer
one side shows behind the bar
like a surf and turf restaurant
his own game
he told me to practice
always practice
never spotted me points
played his best
(he practically grew up in god-damn pool hall)
until I won
I got cocky, I suppose
I bowed in my stomach as he swung the cue
like a bat
“you’re crazy,” I yelled
backed against his collection of beautiful empty liquor bottles
the tall “Black Velvet” cylinders
all over the house
storing children’s prized possessions
a “Crown Royal” leaned against me
if I moved it would crash on the floor
he racked up a new game
the guinea pig squealed in the workroom
safe in the dark
“you wanna play?” he said.


“Joe the Bearcat”
“The Dutchman”
“Big Jerry”
and the inevitable “Red”
the only names that I knew for my father’s friends
our annual camping trip
they drank whisky from different coloured metallic cups that my mother had brought for the kids
tents sat in a giant puddle of water after a thunderstorm.
the men discussed the mess
the women took us to the pavilion
when we came back
the tents were still in the water
our station wagon gone
so were my father and his pals
my mother cried while she hung wet sleeping bags over a rope

Jeffrey Griffiths lives in Hamilton Ontario. His wife, 2 kids, dog, four birds and tropical fish all support his creative side by allowing him ten minutes a week to write. His short fiction and poetry have been published in Hammered Out, Front and Centre, The Nashwaak Review, The Puritan, Saucyvox, Litbits, and Nuvein.


Blogger Matthew Firth said...

Fine, strong poems. 5:30 am and Vandals - nice mix of sincere, honest and salty work, in particular. No bullshit. Lines laid down directly. Great stuff.

6:55 AM  

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