A Story of My Uncle

I was four…
And my uncle,
For want of bread,
“I fed them everything,”
he said, triumphant
– his bulging sack
stinking brown
over his shoulder
“I fed them everything,
and here is the sack,”
he said, to my mother
– her elbow outsticking
like a giant knuckle
from a green sweater.
He stood tall before me,
my black-headed uncle,
and I imagined him
wandering the shore
like some Francis,
casting crumbs
to the fish who gathered there.
“We will eat tonight,”
he said,
his load dropping
in a corner
down the long yellow veranda
where I supposed beetles hid.
“We will eat tonight!
Prepare the fish!”
It beckoned me,
that sack,
like the body of a fallen man;
but I was not brave enough,
in those days,
to touch things
in corners where beetles lay.
While my aproned mother
the white and steaming fish,
I studied: my uncle’s delight
            his mouth,
            the deliberate mixture
            of earth and sea
and discovered
how little he understood
the activities of saints:
but in my wisdom,
I too
stooped to eat. 


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