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Poetry / Michael Riordan

‘To Grandfather Who Died In a Fire’

Issue 3. January 15, 2022



You had a newspaper floor

            It’s nearly all I know of you

                        Your floor for stories for boring uncles


“It kept his feet warm in the winter,” they chuckled

            Basting me with turkey-breath tongues

                        Through cranberry-stained teeth


And mocking judgment

            The “Tsk-tsk” of suckled toothpicks or charred pipes

                        Explained your certainty that the great war


Would ensure an end to linoleum

            You protected your floor with The Chicago Tribune,

                        Convinced no flax would grow again


They said: “Silly old man!”

            But I imagine your long sizzling summers

                        The sound of splashing laughter at Foster Avenue Beach


Sounds of crumbling statues

            In late-afternoon: all the mayors

                        Since the great fire


Sounds amplified

            By yesterday’s open pages

                        Is that the newsprint smell of second-coming headlines


Anointing all

            Who trespassed barefoot against them?

                        I can see the stiff old doily


And a missing ashtray

            You only smoked when you worried

                        What bothered you,



Was it something in the news?

            You dozed in dreamy smoke

                        Awoke too late and were inhaled by flames


We who came after you

            Might have read all about it on your floor

                        Had you not been so sleepy, yet so concerned






Michael Riordan is a writer of poetry, short stories, features, and musical plays for schools and community theater. A lover of travel, he has taught in the U.S., Australia, Singapore, and recently in China as a professor of writing and film studies. He co-founded Creative Action Now, a Singapore-based language school and consultancy.  He won first prize for nonfiction in the spring 2020 “Ageless Authors” contest; recent work appears in Tether’s End, Epoch Press, Spirituality & Health, and Short Edition short story dispenser, among others. See more:

Michael Riordan lives in Arlington, Texas USA

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