Green Hills Literary Lantern

Role Model



for Albert G. North, Sr. (1912-1988)


Look, dad,

I’m not that pitiful little kid

in the alley anymore.

I’ve made myself useful.

I’ve learned to work with my hands,

just like you.

I know the name of every tool

in the mechanic’s box.

I know what each one does,

its strengths and its weaknesses.

I know a crescent wrench

isn’t worth a shit

because it slips off

just when you need it the most.

I know a pair of pliers

will round a nut every time,

identifying you,

like a clue at a crime scene,

as nothing more than

an indolent amateur.

I know a monkey wrench

bears that name because of

the skill required to use it.

I have made myself into a craftsman, dad,

just like you.

Nine times out of ten

I can tell you what’s wrong

with a piece of rotating equipment

without even taking a tool off my truck.


If I could go back in time, dad,

and find you on that ladder again,

desperately trying to pry

open the bathroom transom,

and save our neighbor,

old man Dupre,

it would happen just as I have

more than once imagined it:

I would know better

than to bring you

the ball peen hammer,

the one you cursed

and threw down into the dirt, 

like a knife,

I can still see sticking up,

only a few inches from my feet.

Like a capable apprentice

instead of that pathetic little kid,

I would run to the shed

and grab the claw,

the one you needed to do the job,

then race back,

scale a few bottom rungs of the ladder,

and hand it up to you

before it was too late.




Barry W. North is a sixty-eight-year-old retired refrigeration mechanic. Since his retirement in 2007, he has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, won the 2010 A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction, and, more recently, won Honorable Mention in the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paterson Literary Review, Slipstream, The Dos Passos Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Amoskeag, and others. He has published two chapbooks. Along the Highway, a fiction chapbook, was published by White Eagle Coffee Store Press in 2010, and his first chapbook of poems, Terminally Human, was published in 2013 by Finishing Line Press. For more information visit his website