Tin Roof, with Turkey Sandwiches


The Atlanta traffic this Friday
afternoon is as solid and immobile
as the sheets of tin were on the roof
of my grandmother’s house,
and this sets me thinking about

the giant white oak in her sandy front yard,
how me and little brother and
cousins Tim and Jeff played
shirtless and barefoot beneath it
every summer – Tonka trucks,
Matchbox cars, GI Joes.
We only stopped when Big Mama opened
the screen door at the back of her house and

handed us a brown paper bag full
of sandwiches – turkey on white bread
with yellow mustard, each one wrapped
in crinkled wax paper. By the time
the screen door slammed shut,
we were already three bites in,
because that’s the way shirtless boys ate
when they did not yet understand
the things they did not yet know they loved
were all as doomed as dime-store goldfish.

But we might not have cared anyway,
what with plain yellow mustard
in the corners of our happy mouths,
and the one o’clock sun glancing
off the tin roof, and our toy cars
stalled out on the highway
we had scraped into the hardpack sand
under the giant white oak
in Big Mama’s front yard.


Allen Guest is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Clemson University, where he teaches courses in the calculus sequence for science and engineering majors. He tries to bring the exactness of mathematics to his poetry, but he invariably fails. He hopes the attempt, however, brings a certain clarity of image to his work.


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