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Green Apple Pie
by John McCluskey

My father prays to God
with remarkable fingernails.
      They do not fan out
      They are not pitted
      They have no ridges
      They are not chipped, bitten, or dirty–
each a perfect cuticle U.

He doesn't know this.

My mother once baked a green apple pie
from the load I carried home in my shirt.
She was one of thirteen and at the time of the baking
I had no idea her family once had a tomato fight
      in their backyard
      during the Depression.
She too prays to God.

She may not know that she knows what she's doing.

During the Depression My father took a
south side street car
to pay the mortgage for my grandmother:
money pinned to his shirt.
      Every month.
      He was nine.

One Christmas my mother got an orange.
I wish I could say she has noteworthy fingernails
but oh! how she cradled her brother's head
      in her lap!
      in the street!
      after the accident.

My mother and father met in the San – tuberculosis teens.
They prayed to God.

My father looks unnatural eating fruit.
It has nothing to do with remarkable fingernails.
Did I mention he has sixty percent lung capacity on the left side?
My mother's nails sadden me.

Forgive me, father, it is of you I mean to speak!
      (you! who wheeled your sister around the block, with the fireflies, to give her a break from the polio.)
      (You! who always always! took the belt though I'm certain your father
did love you.)

But I cannot in total absence of my mother
Speak of my father.

And I don't recall at what point during dessert he had his fill of
      the sweet
                                        the tart
                                                                the sour.


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