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Angels With Dirty Faces
Charles Joseph

"War" by Flikr user  Moyan Brenn   

"War" by Flikr user Moyan Brenn  

After a shower, my grandfather
always dried his feet well;
then he would trim his toenails. 

And once they were the proper length, 
he would meticulously dust between each toe
with Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder— 
until his toes and feet were as white as chalk. 

And then, only then, would he put his socks on. 

This ritual must have shaved at least
fifteen or twenty minutes off his day
for as long as I knew him.

But being the curious kid that I was,
who couldn't comprehend why anyone
would treat their feet with such great care—
one morning while he was putting his socks on

I stepped into my grandparent’s bathroom, and said: 

"Hey, Grandpa? Why do you do that to your feet?"

And he said: ""Well, you ever have trench foot?" 

"No," I giggled. "What’s that?"  

"It's nothing, it’s just something I got after Uncle Sam
shipped me off to the pacific to kill people, that's all." 

"You killed people grandpa?" I said. "Like James Cagney!"

And he just looked at me speechless for a few seconds
with that angelic face of his while droplets of water
plummeted to their deaths from the shower head to the tub drain.

"Me? No, I've never killed anyone, kid,” he said. "People only get shot
in the movies." 

Charles Joseph lives and writes in Montclair, NJ. He is the author of four poetry chapbooks that people seem to really like, and No Outlet (a novel) that he’s currently shopping to agents. His new chapbook Fireball (12 quasi-epic poems of cheerful doom and gloom) is available at One day Charles hopes to own a farm and raise chickens.