James Taylor and Jim Croce playing on the stereo,
little round speakers in the ceiling, familiar and low.
You sing, lowly, aware you are in unfamiliar territory.
This is your uncle’s diner, a place you learned
just the night before, he ate each morning
in a hard life of work and children and
carving out a life separate than the one,
his own father had, not an easy thing, escaping
a man with such gravity, a power
that was half love. half abuse. But he escaped,
your uncle, as did your own mother,
and here in the Pensylvania hardscrapple,
Far from his native southern roots,
did the hard work of life with a smile,
a mix of discipline and assurance.
And you find, on the strange pilgrimage of the past
you are on, he too loved diners.
This diner where you are the only stranger.
Last night you dined with his children, daughters
you have loved dearly despite a lack of exposure
as a child. Holidays and funerals
as they made their own pilgrimages to the South,
You dined and hours of talk later, you felt closer,
not just to them, but to him, this man too long passed,
too long pictures and memories, suddenly real again,
his smile broad. holding court, waving his coffee as he talks,
About this poem
On my way down to visit another great aunt, I stopped in PA Sunday night and had dinner with two cousins who live in Easton, learning more about them, and my great uncle, their father, who as it turns out, had a favorite diner of his own. So, on my way south yesterday morning, I went there to visit him.