I spent a summer
writing in a garage across from the zoo,
where you could hear the monkeys screaming
at the freight trains every night.
Jack was an A.A. legend
I got to know at the morning cafe —
a failed Boston Globe sportswriter
who talked sports using a Boston growl.
We’d never known each others last names,
just Roy and Jack till one day he waved me over.

Said he’d gotten traded by the Globe to the L.A. Times
because of Sid Caesar disease. (Alcohol)
I nodded and sat down. He said well it didn’t work out.
He’d gotten mugged in a drunkard’s alley
and ended up in the hospital.
Blood alcohol — .26. That’s a lot
and he agreed that it really was.
So he married the nurse, quit drinking,
moved to a Central Valley town.
Had a boy with her named Danny.
The nurse soon died and Jack raised Danny alone.

Now Jack was a stranger in the valley town.
Reading the local papers — big man this and big man that.
Then he leans forward into my face.
Back in the L.A. days — he’d gone to a political fundraiser
at the Ambassador Hotel for the open bar.
Got there late, had a couple of Manhattans
in the ballroom, maybe five,
and sat down at a table by an elderly man.
They started talking — Tennessee Walking Horses mostly.
Old man knew all about ’em, hocks and tails.
bloodlines and withers. Very smart guy.
Jack called the man a long shadow.

Now let’s wrap it up — Jack moves to the valley town.
Wife lost to cancer. Danny grows.
Jack reads that the big man had died.
Sees a picture in the Fresno Bee.
Says my grandfather
was the Tennessee horse guy in the ballroom …