fourth of July
in the late 70's

us kids would be popping
black cats all day long
in the gravel driveway

or down past the creek
playing in the dirt road
that ran by our house

black cats
shoved into ant holes

they used to make sparklers
out of metal and
every year
someone would step on one
and they would
have to break off a
piece of the aloe vera plant

it reminded me of the inside
of Stretch Armstrong

my grandmother would show
up in her buick that was
a mile and three quarters long

a gunboat

anne murray soundtrack
'little snow bird'

my great grandfather would
be in the front passenger seat
with a pair of shades on that looked
like he just had cataract surgery

he would be in his pajamas
and drinking a beer
with a napkin around it
that my grandmother had wrapped
on there to avoid detection
I guess

I would tap on his glass
and grandma would roll down
the window
but he would just keep staring

I'd start talking and he would slowly
turn and look at me
but rarely say much


I thought he was cool

pot belly
had to get around in a wheelchair

been to prison...
hit in the head with a hammer
outside of a beer joint...
had a house full of women
lost a boy in the war
lost his wife to TB

I'd stare off down the line, too

homemade ice cream
smoke bombs

who wants cheese?

one of my grandma's would
give the kids a cigarette for a punk

mine would burn
the fastest

then I got punks

that little kid-mind
in the creek

a soldier
a pirate
a spy

anything you wanted

but completely
amazing at
whatever it was

I can picture everyone
lining up
for a family photo that
no one would ever see

and a lot of those folks
are gone now

and as impatient as I was then
to get out of that picture
and back to the fireworks
I would be just as quick
to hop back in there for a moment
and look around at everybody

say hi

hug their neck

but some are now
just in those old
polaroid pictures

and time
is moving ain't it?

I'm planning on going with it

I might look around
in the next family photo
I'm in a little longer
take it in...

but then it's
firecracker time