Rockwellian BBQ at The Town Green

Grill masters perform tricks, roll the dogs
over, flipping burgers, with All-American
gestures of a patriot defending war
backhanding their own backyard pests.
The neighborhood kid who was known

for poking a dead squirrel with a stick
has been dead for a year. The shrouded
value of such compulsions is profound,
perhaps snared in the ruddy face of Mabel
Delaney, the sweaty brow of her husband

Pete. Men have their way with the grilling
no onion, hold the pickle or other trimmings.
It’s all in the particulars of town gossip
the careful precision men utilize, with spatulas
their shiny tongs, painstakingly calibrating

ever roll of the wrist. Mrs. McCarthy strikes
a sharp tongue sharply nudging Cindy Johnson
to listen closely by shifting the speed and tone,
adding effect and hints to heed warning. One would
think this social deluge and flair for such scandal

might trigger some sudden under-toe of shame
and public dissection. Some individuals are born
encoded in publicly advantageous ways.
They might rehearse the same habit in relentless
favor of mastering one factor of a complex

concept such as swift exploit vs. delayed action,
These people may influence the identical brows
of their peers drawing open or shut like thick curtains,
perhaps have to power to convince a whole community
that the world’s bound for hell in a hand basket.

Mabel bows her head, clutching a lopsided Bundt
unable to face the other women, nor Mayor
Pete who tries to crack jokes at expense
of the person who overcooked the Pork
as folks prod their portions suspiciously

their plastic utensils snap ineffectively
as Mrs and Mr Pete Delaney, the parents
of the town’s fallen soldier are applauded.
It is befitting, the whole community
gathers this way, the willful elbows

of a teeming crowd congest the space
to such a limit that not a single flag-waver
in the swell would allow another expression
of pride for their homeland., the irony this:
The correlation of the red white and blue

ribbons and the slender wand of wood
they sprang from is apparent to one neighbor
before another, those who know how to seize
the moment ahead of others utterly too wide open
to the preemptive patriot. Even at the fundamental

level, gradually building and mastering the tools
to gain advantage over another can be achieved
by the average American, at the very least
there is never too much need to worry for long.
There is no need to fear. After all, just look around

there are always plenty of sticks to go around.

Artwork © Ira Joel Haber

Artwork © Ira Joel Haber

Timothy Gager is the author of ten books of short fiction and poetry. His latest, The Shutting Door (Ibbetson Street Press) was nominated for The Massachusetts Book Award. He has hosted the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts every month for the past thirteen years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. He has had over 300 works of fiction and poetry published since 2007: nine have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio.

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 160 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn.