Dad, he truly was a bum, a defenses’ dream, a knock-kneed,
cockeyed excuse for a quarterback. Just as you said,
those occasions when we sat and talked-you just back
from a twelve hour shift at Jeffery and Manz, me getting
ready to go out and run the streets with punks up to
no good, searching for something, anything to make
the future necessary. Snead, the bane of your twenties,
mocking your unsinkable faith in the American Dream.
Fleet as cinder block in the pocket, crushed every time
he threw one of his ducks, always managing to get back
to his feet, eyes bugging and jersey bloodied, ready
to begin again. "If the poor bastard had ever played for
someone who cared, he’d probably had been a hall of
famer," you’d say. So how’d you do it? Five squawking kids,
another on the way, the 70s economy an oozing wound.
Days spent in oven heat, walking up and down Chestnut
and Walnut in one of your gaudy, almost out of style suits,
begging for work from big mahoffs sitting at high desks
with shiny nameplates, all those "yous’" and "ain’ts"
blaring from your bullhorn mouth. Week after week like
this: light and gas unpaid, meals of cornflakes and fried
baloney, winter stalking in the air. I remember none of it,
the baby you had to hold your ears against, screaming you
awake whenever you managed to sleep. Then there was
Snead, every Sunday, to batter your heart with his failure,
leaving you to sit alone nights in the kitchen when the house
had finally quieted, unshaven face buried in your hands,
wondering when life would grow tired of kicking your ass?
Brian Patrick Heston grew up in Philadelphia. He holds an MFA in fiction from George Mason University and an MFA in poetry from Rutgers University. His poems have won a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and have been published in such places as West Branch, 5am, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Poet Lore. Presently he teaches writing and literature at Rowan University and the Community College of Philadelphia.