Shep Ranbom


He talked in glances over the Daily News after a day
supervising construction crews or wielding calipers
to map each tree along the Turnpike. Tall and lanky,
he'd stretch on his lounger to read the box scores
and school lunch menus aloud as we quaked
about, the housemoods easily shaken. My mother,
dusting, would sing with Beverly Sills on the Sony,
as I read the catechisms of Russell and Auerbach,
then tore up the living room with my dribbling,
denting the dadoes to the parquet, newly butchwaxed,
to the lolly columns below. He rose only when
something smashed, tending wounds with cement.
His palming hands could repair any shard of glass.
He was steady as a pulley in a window sash.


Up the narrow transit of the basement stairs, Dad watched over me,
his desk a drafting board on the poker table, as he sat sensing
for seismic shifts in the ceiling to see if I needed tending
that winter when I was eight and in a month's recovery

from two throat operations. Off-season and in charge
of road construction in town, Dad moved his field office
to our house, and every few hours would send his assistant
to bring me ice cream--mostly cartons of cherry vanilla,

Boozie's favorite flavor. "There's nothing better for a man
on his back than some jugs on his lips," Boozie said,
as he entered my tiny porthole, bringing me a sundae bowl
with two sculpted scoops, milky white with cherry nipples.

"Does it take away the soreness?" he asked, watching
me spoon each ounce of goodness. For 30 years, he was
Dad's chauffeur, entrusted to manage all key maneuvers.
He checked my gullet with the same focus he measured

the temperature of a bridge. I lay half awake and woozy,
but daily found new strength, as if Boozie's hands,
like a fisherman's, had entered my dreams, reaching
inside my throat to release every painful hook and suture.

Shep Ranbom recently completed a collection of poems called The Infinity of Small Places from which these pieces are drawn. Newly published work includes poems in tribute to the late Irish novelist John McGahern, which appear in Leitrim Guardian 2007, and selections from "King Philip's War," appearing in Independent Scholar. He is the co-founder and president of CommunicationWorks, LLC, a national public affairs firm focused on education, social policy, and cultural issues.



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