On my grandmother’s front porch
where we gathered on Sunday afternoons,
Paul seemed to be the most relaxed of uncles,
pipe stem poised in his mouth
only to be pulled out
for a few quiet responses,
his voice low and slow.
He sat in a metal lawn chair
at the far end of the porch,
his tall, slim frame
and steady gray eyes
reminiscent of Gary Cooper in Sergeant York,
his Tennessee accent much the same.
He was my grandmother’s oldest son
and one of five to serve in World War II—
five blue stars displayed in her window.
To show for his service
he bore a shrapnel-scarred shoulder,
one arm shorter than the other.
In another day he had been
a restless hobo, a hard drinker, and a tempestuous lover
until he found his way after the war
and swore off his sins.
And then he became the Paul I knew—
reverent, peaceful, and calm—
his presence on that porch
a balm to us all.