Sergeant Major

In Memory of Robert Lent

You were Dad’s best friend—
or one of his best—Uncle Robby
and, to me, you seemed more
than half a father: scoutmaster,
drill instructor for our Memorial Day
parade, wisecracker on the Fourth,
fisherman and ping pong champ . . .
and overseer of the Friday Night Fights.

Tough as nails, or steel wool,
your soft heart later betrayed you,
though it never once failed us.
I see you now, feet together, hands locked
on the black rubber grips of your Sears Finest
push mower—perfect for your 30X50 front yard.
The way the handle angles up to your waist
forces you to bend forward a few inches,

yet you stand straight and true
at the untrimmed edge of your concrete walk.
In that white cap and round-necked tee,
your Sy Sims jeans and boots, you are unmistakably
a citizen to be proud of: a strong tree that sends roots
deep into communal earth. Tough-barked but tender-
hearted, no one is about to sway you: nothing
can mow you down.


© Charles Fishman