Stories by Stephen Dunn
It was back when we used to listen to stories,
our minds developing
pictures as we were taken into the elsewhere
of our experience or to the forbidden
or under the sea.
Television was wrestling, Milton Berle,
Believe It Or Not. We knelt before it
in front of something sent by parachute,
but when grandfather said “I’ll tell you a story,”
we stopped with pleasure,
sat crosslegged next to the fireplace, waited.
He’d sip gin and hold us, his voice
the extra truth
beyond what we believed without question.
When grandfather died and changed
what an evening meant,
it was 1954. After supper we went
to the television, innocents in a magic land
getting more innocent,
a thousand years away from Oswald and the shock,
the end of our enormous childhood.
We sat still
for anything, laughed when anyone slipped
or lisped or got hit with a pie. We said
to our friends
“What the hey?” and punched them in the arms.
The television had arrived, and was coming.
Throughout the country
all the grandfathers were dying,
giving their reluctant permission, like Indians.
"Stories" by Stephen Dunn from Local Time. © Quill Press, 1986. Reprinted with permission.