• Poetry

Gary Lenhart - from My Mother's Movie, E Pluribus

from My Mother's Movie

2. Work

She conducted market research,

Mostly in grocery stores,

And assembled a team more afraid

Of her than of snow or hail,

While she managed successfully

A constant cottage industry,

My stepfather, brother and me

On jobs she booked for us

(If we pleaded fatigue or injury

She’d say, “Offer it up”),

Long days toting refrigerators

And sofas, delivering newspapers daily

To coin boxes and stands, painting

Houses of old or disabled people,

Mowing lawns, chauffeuring

Someone to the doctor

Or to court. Her cousins

Would come straight from jail

For a meal and 20 bucks,

Vow to get straight,

Or acquaintances come by

To talk about their violent

Husbands, wayward wives, delinquent

Kids, failing bladders—

Or they asked her to co-sign

For much-needed loans

Until the bank said no more—

She never refused.

8. Fighter

So where’s the part about

The scrappy young woman

With an attitude, the one

With the rapier tongue

Who battled all slights

From scrappy sisters-in-law,

Horny bosses, vulgar Little League

Presidents, booth-intruding aldermen,

Despotic nuns—

The little woman who slugged

Her mild massive husband

And bar-fighting son?

She was never a doormat

But a battler who could go off

At unexpected triggers,

Afraid of neither bully

Nor windbag, badge

Or bankroll, condescending assholes.

She was one tough

Mother’s haywire daughter.

E Pluribus

Was I the only Catholic kid

At Herman’s bar mitzvah?

I thought it was a birthday party

But his parents treated it

Like a big deal.

They even took us to a movie

That they determined suitable

For adolescent boys—

The only one available

In Albany on a rainy afternoon—

The Nun’s Story. Herman kept asking

Me questions about what was going on.

Damned if I knew. I didn’t know any nuns

Who looked like Audrey Hepburn,

Knew nothing about the Congo,

And Herman probably knew more than I

About the German occupation of Belgium.

Gary Lenhart is the author of six collections of poetry, including The World in a Minute (2010) and Father and Son Night (1999) from Hanging Loose Press. His published prose includes The Stamp of Class: Reflections on Poetry and Social Class (University of Michigan Press, 2006) and Another Look: Selected Prose (Subpress, 2010).


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