Uncle Frank and the Boy

Uncle Frank and the Boy
by Ed Davis

Uncle Frank rolled his smokes
one-handed, washed his hair
in Ajax every week beneath
the pump’s glittering stream.

Seven summers Chuck worked
as his uncle’s hired hand, from
twelve to nineteen, in the care
of a bachelor farmer who
served himself and the boy
four beers a day, even after
Grandma came to stay.
She never asked what man and boy
were doing at the trough after dark,
where they’d stand and drink
and watch the stars.

Back to Detroit by autumn,
back to friends and a mother
grateful for a son spared the street.
Chuck must’ve been bereft—
no rising at sunrise, no chores,
no tractor, no hay, no trough;
no calf’s liver suppers
cooked on a woodstove.

Too young to know
he’d brought home more
than muscles, tough and tan,
he’d cultivated the man
he’d be for the rest of his life.

(*As published in Mock Turtle Zine, Issue #4)