My uncle killed a man and was proud of it.
Some guy with a knife came at him in Flatbush
and he knocked the fucker to the ground.
The sidewalk finished the job.
By then he’d survived two wives and
a triple bypass. He carried the plastic tubing in his pocket
and would show it to you, to anyone.
He’d unbutton his shirt right there on the street
to show off the scar.
In the old country, his father was killed by a Cossack.
Some drunk came after the old man with an ax
and his sister Anna tried to staunch the wound
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 hurried to the door.
Now he was a good-looker in a pin-striped suit
and spiffy shoes. No sense living
in the Dark Ages, he would say with a wink.
Oh the endless drive to Brooklyn when I was a child,
his snorting and laughing at the door:
I’m gonna take a bite of your little behind.
Image: Levinstein, Leon. “Street Scene: Man in Pinstripe Suit, New York City.” 1970s. Gelatin silver print photograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.