Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LENNIE SWENSON, by KAREN SWENSON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

LENNIE SWENSON, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: 6:00 in the super's smell of pine sol
Last Line: Lay still on the white tile, his pockets empty.
Subject(s): Memory; Murder; Uncles

6:00 in the super's smell of Pine Sol
they stabbed him to death
when at 74 he came back
from buying his Daily News
with no change for their habit -
the white tile drained pink splashes.

My uncle Lennie who always had a seal
with a red ball on its nose in his pocket
from a Carstairs whiskey bottle
and slipped bands from his cigars on my fingers
to jewel them with a rich male scent
held only the Daily News in his hand against death.

Digging down to the lint in his pockets
he came to us, teased the dog and laughed
while my mother provided chicken
until I, his red-haired replica,
waved him good-bye with full fingers, but
on the tile his white hair soaked back to red.

My father moved beyond his brother to the suburbs
and my mother said his laugh was not refined -
a fingernail on the sooty window of her husband's tenement past -
who, one more item in the next day's news,
lay still on the white tile, his pockets empty.

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