Two Plates on the Table
Oldest of six sons, I'd long left home,
but often stopped to visit my widowed father
and youngest brother, still at home with him,
each taking care of the other.
The old man, sober for years,
still looked over his shoulder for the devil,
though the devil, knowing he'd been beaten
by my father, had set his sights on my brother;
and the old man could see this, too.
My father was peeling potatoes,
the kitchen table set with two plates;
a ballgame played on the radio.
He was happy to see me, glad I'd stopped by,
but he watched the clock and the door for his youngest,
hoping he wouldn't have to put away one plate,
though he'd warm up the potatoes,
sit with my brother while he ate,
no matter the condition he was in, no matter how late.
Sunshine Glenstone, the juror who selected Schug's poem, remarks: "In 'Two Plates on the Table,' the poet presents the reader with a complex yet common human scenario -- the genetic tendency toward addiction. The observant narrator, already in a powerful position as a blood relative of the afflicted, is deft and concise in his summary of the family scene, then wisely steps aside to let the reader feel whatever he or she may about an ongoing conflict within an individual, and its reverberations within a family."
About the poet: Larry Schug writes, "I am employed as Recycling Coordinator at the College of St. Benedict. This is a fancy job title that means I process other people's garbage for recycling. My wife and I live at the edge of a tamarack bog in St. Wendel Township. I've published five books of poems."
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