The New World
My uncle killed a man and was proud of it.
Some punk with a knife came at him in Flatbush
and he knocked the sucker to the ground.
The sidewalk finished the job.
By then he'd survived two wives
and a triple bypass. He carried
a bit of the plastic tubing in his pocket
and would show it to anyone.
He'd unbutton his shirt right there on the street
and show off the scar.
As a boy, he watched a drunken Cossack
go after his father with an ax.
His sister tried to staunch the bleeding
with a hunk of dry bread.
That's the old country for you:
they ate with their hands, went hungry to bed,
slept in their stink. When pain knocked,
they opened the door.
The bitter drive to Brooklyn every Sunday
when I was a child—
Uncle George in the doorway snorting and laughing,
I'm gonna take a bite of your little behind.
He was a good-looker in a pin-striped suit
and wingtip shoes.
This is America, we don't live
in the Dark Ages anymore, honey.
This is a free country.