English Breakfasts

Grandmother died yesterday,

a little girl tells me at breakfast,
and Mommy says we’ll inherit something.
How English, I think.
The teapot hides
in a quilted cozy.
The sugar is cubed,
the silver spoons polished
by the Irish maid.
Not one pinched face at this table
can extrude a tear.

On the street, a moving truck
is engorged with furniture.
Its double-doors close.
A thin, pale woman
looks back at the Tudor
house, the round hill,
the enclosing oaks.
I suppose I shall miss it,
she tells her husband.
It had too many rooms, anyway.

They drive off. The house
settles and sighs audibly.
A branch falls
from an embarrassed maple.

My father, whom
I had not seen in thirty years,
told me of his memories:
Your grandfather took me out
for a beer once.
I was twenty-six
and in the army.
It’s the only time
he ever really talked to me.

When I wrote, I called him “Old One.”
He signed his letters,
Going on sixty, I warmed up
to “Venerable Rutherford”;
he was past ninety,
and, finally, at the close
of a hand-printed letter,
he ended it:


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