The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Saturday and Museum Weapons

Man of the Year
By Robin Becker

My father tells the story of his life

and he repeats The most important thing:
           to love your work.
I always loved my work. I was a lucky man.

This man who makes up half of who I am,
          this blusterer
who tricked the rich, outsmarting smarter men,

gave up his Army life insurance plan
           (not thinking of the future
wife and kids) and brokered deals with two-faced

rats who disappeared his cash but later overpaid
          for building sites.
In every tale my father plays outlaw, a Robin Hood

for whom I'm named, a type of yeoman
          refused admission
into certain clubs. For years he joined no guild—

no Drapers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant
          Tailors, Salters, Vintners
but lived on prescience and cleverness.

He was the self-inventing Polish immigrant's
          Son, transformed
By American tools into Errol Flynn.

As he speaks, I remember the phone calls
          during meals—
an old woman dead in apartment two-twelve

or burst pipes and water flooding rooms.
he left the house and my mother's face

assumed the permanent worry she wore,
          forced to watch him
gamble the future of the semi-detached house,

our college funds, and his weekly payroll.
          Manorial halls
of Philadelphia his Nottingham,

my father fashioned his fraternity
          without patronage
or royal charters but a mercantile

swagger, finding his Little John, Tinker,
          and Allen-a-Dale.
Wholesalers, retailers, in time they resembled

the men they set themselves against.
          Each year they roast and toast
one member, a remnant of the Grocer's Feast

held on St. Anthony's Day, when brothers
          communed and dined
on swan, capon, partridges, and wine.

They commission a coat of arms, a song,
          and honor my father—
exemplary, self-made, without debt—

as Man of the Year, a title he reveres
           for the distinguished
peerage he joins, the lineage of merry men.


I spent most of Friday cleaning and reorganizing after going on a fruitless hunt for a working Dell laptop charger cord (we have one that's not working and two Dell laptops in the house that also are not working but we can't find their cords). Meanwhile I also hung up some photos in younger son's room (the giant foam letters spelling out his name that have been there for 20 years came down) and did a bunch of cleanup in the kitchen and hall.

It rained all day, though it was nice and cool, so I only got out for a couple of raids in the park. We had dinner with my parents, then came home and watched The Sea Hawk because we'd never seen it and discovered it was On Demand. I'm ambivalent about Errol Flynn (talk about someone who'd be boycotted if he were alive) but I love old seafaring movies. Here from last weekend are my in-laws with us at the Baltimore Museum of Industry making catapults:

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