The Youngest Uncle
He was the one who strolled downtown with you
to buy new shoes for school. Remember
how the leather smelled. Remember
as you both walked home,
you watched him holding up his cigarette
and tipping back his head
so the clouds he breathed rolled over —
never touching you, except with fragrance.
Remember how you loved their scent.
How his face was worn
by something more than sun.
How his smile was tuned to the sad guitar
an unseen stranger strummed
high in a room behind an open window,
on the final day of summer.
Remember how it went.
Remember grubby, rubbed-thin socks
inside bright-buckled shoes:
shoes so new, so red you were compelled
to crouch upon the sidewalk
each time you crossed a street
to smooth them clean of dust.
Remember how he offered you his handkerchief for this,
and waiting, lit another cigarette,
standing so the crowd must part around you.
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Rose Strode has published only one other poem, which appeared earlier this year in Poet Lore. Her personal essays have appeared in print in such journals as The Gettysburg Review, Little Patuxent Review, and the Delmarva Review. Rose is the recipient of the “Undiscovered Voices” fellowship at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.