Here’s one you haven’t heard,
he’d say to start each story—
and we hadn’t.
You could almost see him reach for the tale—
as if rummaging in the junk drawer
to retrieve it.
Sam worked at the Church Avenue Branch
of the library, until blindness
He taught me to read
after my second grade teacher had declared
He told stories to kids each Saturday morning
and taught English to adults three
nights a week.
I often subbed for him
as his cancer progressed—
I was happy at it.
Seventy years of smoking
had conspired to kill him.
As if the smoke
had found substance—a fat tabby
that slept soundly on his chest.
for a Camel, he said with what passed
for a laugh—Got one?
I’d have given
him one if I still smoked, but I could see
his mood had changed.
you haven’t heard, he said
one last time—in a half voice
I could barely understand.
When I was your age, I knew
a storyteller—told tales
that made you shiver.
“You have the gift.” he said.
I didn’t stay to watch him die.
That moonless night, the city
was dark as London in the blitz.
Here’s one you haven’t heard, I thought
taking a single baby step.
What a lovely and gentle story of a storyteller and his protégée. Notice the linebreaks in stanzas 7-12. The regular length lines and complete sentences at both ends of the poem are interrupted by short lines with breath-stopping linebreaks in the middle, causing anticipation to build up.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. Some of his recent publications have or will appear in The Red Eft Review, Thimble, The Mark Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, RavensPerch, MacQueen’s, 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, Third Wednesday, and the Muddy River Poetry Review. Steve was nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. His Chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory was published in 2020 by Kelsay. Steve’s third book of poetry, Going, Going, Gone, was just accepted for publication.