Grandfather Clock


I remember the smell of nicotine and tobacco,


of yellowed tar-filled teeth, that


always wafted from your face,


whenever you came to visit me


as a young kid at the turn of the millennium. 



I remember too, your hoarse laugh, 


and your habit of drinking, albeit responsibly—


how you watched my childish hands


draw crude pictures of dragons, ships, and landscapes,


and how you encouraged me to pursue art 


before my own parents would see me for my true self


many years down the road. 



I remember your face and how it felt— rough like sandpaper,


chiseled like the hard-cut wood of a furnished grandfather clock.


And your hands— how tired and rugged they looked


after many years spent punching buttons in calculators


for your dead-end job as an accountant that only earned you


a certificate from your firm long after you were dug a grave. 



I remember your character— carefully cultivated like the crops


in the Cuban ranches of my mother’s side of the family—


your patience as the old-fashioned “man of the house”,


as steady as the swinging of your pendulum, 


despite the many weights you carried taking care of me 


from the crib while my father was away in Venezuela.



I remember your passion at the dinner table,


how you debated and made speeches about history and economics,


about the dirtiness of politics and the horrors of war. 


How you inspired great-grandma and grandmother, even in their old age. 



I remember when I was in middle school,


how you had to stop working and be admitted to the hospital,


due to some horrible virus or cancer developing in your colon.



I remember how scared I was, and how I prayed to the Virgin Mary


for you to recover and come back to me, healthy and strong,


in the days when I still believed in God, or even a god for that matter. 



I remember, to my joy, how, after a long wait,


you came back to my grandmother’s house.



I remember how I saw you for the last time in my life


sitting in your bedroom’s rocking chair— bone joints rusty


and creaking in tandem with the recliner as weary as you. 


You were watching baseball on TV, and the Yankees were at 


the bottom of the ninth inning, trying to home-run their way to victory.



How foreboding and fitting for you, grandfather clock, 


since your game time was almost up, and my immature mind, 


was none the wiser, and was blind to the truth!



I remember how not even two days after I saw you 


there on the recliner, the cancer in your colon


had returned, and killed you at the hospital bed. 



I remember how I cried, and how I was furious at God for not saving you,


how I wasn’t allowed to go to your funeral or see you get buried,


since Mother thought I’d be too traumatized by seeing the ordeal. 



I remember in those final hours of yours, 


the final tick-tocks of your heart


how the industrious gears turning inside of you


finally gave way and shut down— those hours


I never got to experience, but could only dream and think


about, in the nights I cried in my pillow,


and in the days I thought my world was shattered. 



I remember you, grandfather clock—


how I was too young to act, and could only spectate


as your delicate machinery wound down over the years


through wear and tear and overuse and overwork. 



I remember you for who you were to me,


and to that, I can only say, thank you. 





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This poem is about: 
My family
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