Family Tradition

Paul Handley

As a carnivore I am repelled by cannibalism
and self-mutilation, but I still attend
our biannual Marinsky reunion
held in Villa Park, Illinois, bordering Chicago,
in a park coned unevenly with trees
blocking the skyline of the city
and industrial complexes to the south.
Instead of like a dog cone
to prevent tonguing salve,
we like to tease cleft scabs.

Family tradition is telling horrific stories
of family history or wince inducing
periods of bad luck.  Best of all is to
hook a new member, impaired by politeness,
with cousins chortling knowingly,
confirming the details.  A coup is
embellishment that becomes embedded
in the retelling.

Traumatic events such as our pharmacist grandpa
poisoning his first two wives to death
when they became ill, because he didn’t
want to take care of anyone.
His caretaker days were over
when the youngest turned eighteen.
Or grandma on the maternal side
burning down the house to commit suicide.
The madness here is implied.
Warning, embrace with caution.
Welcome to the family.

After a couple of beers
males eyed to see if drink wine coolers
for hint of weakness.  Various levels
of the unsound.  Ice in whiskey
(the short ones).  Beer from a cup
instead of a can.  The opposite
true for females.  All related by
blood are strict adherents.
A couple of bohemian in-laws
dare to add cubes and defiantly stir
with a finger after four domestic canned beers.

No one must admit they have been drinking,
transgressions cannot be excused.
Decorum flaws cannot be indulged
by bloodstream.  Another test.

As a proponent of stem cell research
I reject cloning and synthetic foods,
yet I comply within reason by the reunion rules
created by matriarchs and patriarchs
with a unique sense of their own cosmos,
in a closed off park in Villa Park, Illinois.