Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Next Day after Vito’s Tavern

(for my sister “Pidge”)

He was a left-handed Tarzan
swinging from Andante’s grocery store awning.
His right hand waved a .22 caliber pistol,
and shots rang out on Elizabeth and Race Street,
Father’s Day, 1957.

The Everly Brothers were singing Bye, Bye Love
on the Philco; Rocky Marciano abandoned
his title the year before,
and this was just another Sunday brawl
between my mom and dad.

Late afternoons after Vito’s Tavern
brought no surprises for my sister and me.
He tried to leave my mom many times before,
and he made my sister drag suitcases down
the front stairs while I listened to cussing
and the neighbors’ whispering behind doors
that were slightly ajar.

But this time mom broke my plastic guitar
over his head, heavy with 80-proof,
and we had to escape through gangways and alleys
to avoid his Ford Fairlane’s squealing tires.

Why was he chasing us? How was I to fathom
the effects of Early Times Kentucky whisky
and Schlitz beer at six-years-old?

We cried because of his almost leave-taking,
and he passed out just in time.
My sister dragged his suitcases up the stairs
until next time.

As usual my mom didn’t speak to him for four days,
and he made me his mediator
with a mission to obtain her mercy.

By Saturday, the two of them were going to Vito’s,
and I’m All Shook Up was playing
on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

“The Next Day after Vito’s Tavern…” was originally published by Lake Shore Publishing.

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