Green Hills Literary Lantern





My maternal grandfather,

who hated shopping and unnecessary noise,

took me shopping when I was one,

me pulling my quacking toy duck.


When I was two, my grandfather

dug a big hole in our yard for an oak sapling,

making me his Official Helper

despite the pleas of the worried women

who, not knowing me as well as did he,

were afraid I’d fall in.


My grandfather, when I was three,

set a pine board on his workbench,

gave me a hammer and roofing nails

(their heads, like mine, childishly large)

and set me to pounding

while he looked on with pride,

bragging to the nervous women that,

just like him, I never missed once.


Before I was four, my grandfather

was dead and I didn’t stop pounding nails

into the board until, big heads crowding

up on each other, I’d made rises

that looked like burial mounds.


Then we moved and, in the confusion,

left the board behind.


My mother, once we were settled-in,

wondered aloud what the new owners,

when they saw that board, must have



Probably, she then remarked, just that

some little boy who lived there before

could have got hurt doing that.



 Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His books include the collection While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013) and two chapbook collections: Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). For more information, please visit