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Manoa 12.2 (2000) 62-63
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No Man's Land
You are five OK who cares, who cares your mother
takes you every morning to a lady's house who takes
care of you near the factory where they manufacture
facts and that day across the cold coalyards you've
already figured out how the world works All summer
railcars railcars dump Pennsylvania coal in the yards
you're crossing waiting waiting for winter when
people burn the coal to keep from freezing in the cold
and the eyeglasses your mother makes in the factory
go out to Pennsylvania to help the miners, see? But
as you think of sitting alone at Wilhelmina's all day
watching the sky it's like car sickness, this lump of
fact you are swallowing You beg your mom as you
cross the coalyard Don't leave me at Wilhelmina's
Your mother leans over you, her face is giant, Who
cares Who cares what you think! she yells, I have to
work! Your tongue is frozen in cold black coal dust
your tongue You call up your final courage to ask
how come she says I have to have my own money
or your father . . . you hear her voice die in the useless
why the inconceivable how From then till now, who
cares if you turned out OK at catching on even if
your hands are sewn on backwards The facts are bigger
than your mother, your invisible father, and you [End Page 62]
In the fourth grade
I wondered why after all his te deums and oremuses
Fr. Smith in white chasuble would chant
"I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other . . ."
pounding the ark against idolatry.
No pagans danced midnight meringues with Moloch in my parish.
Then one day my father showed me The Racing Form.
I was to perform the miracle of long division
by seconds into furlongs.
Did I see one number glow like a horseshoe in a forge?
I saw hooves flashing,
wind whistling through jockeys' helmets,
my father shouting Whip that horse! in the final stretch.
Later, when he drove me to his place of worship
with its flags and roses, I got his number.
When he hit the Double, the goddess smiled on him.
He lifted me on the geyser of his joy.
Then I watched him play the tote board,
sure the changing odds would show him
where the fix was in, over and over until he was broke.
He wouldn't know who he was
if he came home a winner.
Though I choked
on the eucharist of ripped-up tickets,
I loved him.
Bill Tremblay is working on a manuscript entitled Rainstorm Over the Alphabet. Poems from that collection have been published in numerous journals.