An angry old man who rode eight kids
with a deck of cards through the Depression.
What you want? Euchre? Buc Euchre? Sheephead?
Cribbage? Cows are milked, chores done, so come on
youse kids and let's start up some Sheephead.
They didn't own a radio; their mother died in '35,
so skinny Melvin and Al, grown-up Gib and Herb,
buxom young Margie and Dorothy (The other girls
been married off, but bring their husbands home to play)
move in around the table for Charlie's nasty shuffle,
three quick swipes pulled from the bottom
and "Deal, dammit."
Now Charlie's been dead a lot of years.
Three more young ones carry his name.
And he's still mean, shining out of his kids
and their kids when they break out decks of cards.
They bark and bite and swallow beer
at parties only relation can stomach,
most men down the cement basement,
women and milder in-laws up,
and a dozen card tables and mean German games,
with Sheephead the meanest, as in
"You horse's prat, why the hell did you play that?"
and "That was my goddamned trick, you bastard!"
Exuberant loud abuse roars through the stairwell
where Charlie's kids' kids' kids run beer from the tap,
shuffle between tables, ducking the cuff
if they're slow. They top a sip off each delivery
and add spit for the spirit of Charlie.