Kiki

Because as a toddler
I couldn’t pronounce Kistler,

my grandfather
became known as Kiki –

as opposed to Grandpa,
Peepaw, Pawpaw, or Pops.

Scots Irish, raw-boned, ruddy red,
he stood five-foot-five,
a bantam rooster of a man.

He owned and operated
the Nation Station
just outside of Summerville,
and he’d pump your gas
and check your oil
and wipe your windshield,
making sure you were good to go
in those days of yore
before self-service and debit cards.


When it was his time to go,
at the hospital overnight
we took turns sitting vigil
so he wouldn’t have to die alone.

On one of my nights,
he commenced, as he might say,
to hallucinatin’, being chauffeured
by long-dead second cousins
once twice, but now, forever removed.

I tried to talk him down
as if he were tripping,
not knowing that
it’s not uncommon
for the dying
to seek refuge
in the ether.


Kiki didn’t believe in God,
so at the funeral
the rent-a-preacher
didn’t know him,
spoke in generalities,
blandishments, insuring that
Kiki would not come back alive.

No mention of the
sun’s having baked his
bald head and exposed neck
into a permanent ripe tomato red.

No mention of the angry invectives
That spewed like lava when he was angry
“That goddamn psalm-singing son-of-a-bitch!”

No mention of the ukulele,
the yodeling, his tenor voice,

No mention of the radio, Paul Harvey,
the Atlanta Braves.

No mention of the half-pints
of Old Crow hidden in his shoes in the closet
so his wife, my grandmother,

wouldn’t find them
when she cleaned his room

on the opposite side
of the house from hers.

2 thoughts on “Kiki

  1. For a Southerner, you sure do have a lot of Atheists in your family. It’s a little discomforting that the preacher couldn’t have suggested that Kiki was alive in spirit even though he was not a believer.

    • The preacher very well might have done that, but since he didn’t know Kiki, he couldn’t be that specific. I should have given the eulogy, but I was only in my twenties, my grandmother no doubt would have disapproved. thanks for reading and commenting!

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