Two Poems by Henry Stimpson

Why I Became a Writer

The recess bell was buzzing as I ran
to prop up my fallen bike, but Miss Williams
shooed me away: “I don’t care
if it’s the king of England’s bicycle!”

A tall angular woman with reddish hair,
my fourth-grade teacher
was a descendant of Roger Williams,
she told us more than once,

and a distant cousin of Ted Williams
of the Red Sox, with his terrible temper.
Signing my report card in perfect
schoolteacher script, Miss Williams

flunked me in handwriting.
Next year, when I told her I passed,
she asked to see my scribbling, snorted
and said Miss Shields was far too easy.

But once when I wrote a composition
about driving up Mount Washington,
Miss Williams circled “crystal clear air”
and other fine phrases and gave me an A.

Constance Williams is long dead.
I’m the only one in the world
thinking of her right now
and how it’s her fault.

My Italian Grandfather

looked up from his sickbed
and said “Henry Timpton!”
to gently tease me and chuckled
to have a grandson with such a name
in America, where anything’s possible.
I was six, wary in that dark room.
Grampa was very sick,
Mom said, but I couldn’t catch it.
He’d given me a hot, itchy
summer haircut a month earlier.
I fussed and squirmed, I was bad.

In his linoleum barbershop
a framed photo of the invincible
Rocky Marciano watched over
bottles of Bay Rum, a push broom,
a massive leather barber’s chair
and an ornate cash register with numbers
that popped up ding!
A crumbling butt in the toilet
spewed brown curlicues in the water.
In a drawer, his brass knuckles lurked.

“Muscarales,” he’d say and give me
a dime to buy Three Musketeers,
and I’d run up to Garceau’s for his beloved bars.

Adamo in Italy, he was Adam
in that Rhode Island mill town,
where with thousands of haircuts
in he floated a big house,
a wife and ten kids through the Depression.
He refused to cut his price below 50 cents,
made red wine in his dirt basement,
smoked Camels and stiffed the IRS
until cancer took him at 62.

On a website, I find a grass-covered grave marker
          Adam Iervolino 1893 – 1955
He was born a year later than I thought.

Henry Stimpson has been a public relations consultant and writer for decades. His poems, articles, and essays have appeared in Poet Lore, Cream City Review, Lighten Up Online, Rolling Stone, Muddy River Poetry Review, Mad River Review, Aethlon, The MacGuffin, The Aurorean, Common Ground Review, Vol1Brooklyn, Poets & Writers, The Boston Globe and other publications. Once upon a time, he was a reference librarian, a prison librarian, and a cab driver. He lives in Massachusetts.