Spring 1996 • Vol. XVIII No. 2 Poetry |

My Father’s Heroes

Not JFK, not MLK, certainly not Ronald Reagan or Edward I. Koch, no, instead my father chose to glory in the feats of Cool Papa Bell, quickest man in the Negro Leagues, able, Dad bragged, to flick off a light switch, then dart into bed before the room went dark. Praising the fast-dancing feet of the Nicholas brothers, he called my attention to their rapid-fire acrobatics, but saved his true love for Peg Leg Bates, the one-legged tap dancer who'd pound out a furious rhythm on his wooden leg, dazzling audiences with leaps, hops, bounds. I never saw Father anywhere near a piano, but he still schooled me about Jimmy Rushing— "Mister Five by Five," tagged so because he stood five feet tall and looked five feet wide, had me humming Jelly Roll Morton's creole jazz though he'd never been near New Orleans, made certain I knew the difference between Fats Domino and Fats Waller, played -me the Harlem rhapsodies of Ellington so loudly I thought the orchestra had

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Allison Joseph lives, writes, and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she's been on the creative writing faculty of Southern Illinois University since 1994. Her most recent books include My Father's Kites (Steel Toe Books), Trace Particles (Backbone Press), and Little Epiphanies (Imaginary Friend Press). A 1988 graduate of Kenyon College, this poem was her among her first published poems.

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The Idiot Box

By Allison Joseph

Not JFK, not MLK, certainly not Ronald Reagan or Edward I. Koch, no, instead my father chose to glory in the feats of Cool Papa Bell, quickest man in the […]

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