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Uncle Tom Shortall’s Gone

Uncle Tom Shortall’s Gone

Uncle Tom Shortall’s gone, is dead
more myth than relative taller than life
whose eyes were higher than my father’s head
whose booming voice was an open door

whose sons surged through the den each year
who (he said) fed alligators in his dark basement
whose eyes were clowns who had no care
whose smile brooked no impediment

Uncle Tom taller than the fridge and most
could reach the liquor bottles with his eyes
blow off the dust for the once-a-year toast
where did he go what is it he sees

in the space beyond basements and christmas eves
where mice run away with a broken moon
where pain is fed to snapping teeth
Uncle Tom you left too soon

 

Author’s note: Tom Shortall was a beloved and to me legendary figure in my family’s Christmas Eve parties. It was not an official Christmas Eve until the Shortall family arrived. This poem doesn’t do justice to his life, of which I do not know much, but hopefully does justice to how big and generous a personality he was to the boy I was and still to some extent am. -JS