John’s Vocation


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People want you around
when ya can clean things.

I walked miles through rain and snow.
I walked miles through depression and raw.

I’ve worked since I was fifteen.
I’ll be sixty one next week.

I’ve learned cooking, landscaping, and maintenance.
I’ve learned I can’t make you do.

I’ve seen people come and go.
I’ve seen people broke.

People want you around
when ya can fix things.



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“All babies come out pale. You know the way to tell if a baby is gonna turn? You look at the tip top of their ears. If the ears are dark, then the baby will be dark. Remember, Darnell’s baby? She was yellow as can be, and you know how dark as hell he is. And, now she’s dark too.”


She likes to look at all the church ladies’ hats–red, yellow, white with silver flecks.

Her eyes rest on a young woman without a hat.

“Momma, look at that lady’s ears. They are so black.”

“No, Rose, her ears are just like ours.”

“And her lips–”

“Rose Tyler Smythe!”

She freezes and doesn’t know why.



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So, Jennifer Keyser and David Tyler were together. I remembered watching David backstroke at the pool on Meade Street. He had back hair at the age of 12 and the largest and longest nipples I had ever seen. And, now he had Jennifer with her perfect teeth and smell of oranges. It’s probably just her soap. God, I wanted to punch David in the throat.

his country’s shame


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when you were young,
you were a Nazi.

you thought you were a soldier.

now at 88 years old,
are you still a Nazi?

the records, the maps,
they still hold your crime.

the mountains of glasses,
pulled gold fillings,
and bones are gone?

or do they weigh on your heart?
have you grown a heart?

how long will it beat freedom?
did it ever?

do we choose to hear your whispered apologies and explanations
over the din of her history’s echoes?


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