Fred Shaw

Fat Lady

 “The blows remind me of the repertoire of the schoolyard bully.”—William Gass

Pronkstillleven by Abraham van Beyeren

Severe as a noon siren,
her voice could slice
the neighborhood in two,

cutting through plaster walls
and shut windows, reminding
all of us within earshot

just how bad her kids could be.
Amid her fury, always a silent boyfriend
sitting tight, sucking at a Kool

on their crumbling stoop,
the screen-door’s slam punctuating
our long days that summer.

It was after the Fourth’s grand finale,
when the dogs stopped panting
and pacing, and Dad had run-out

of the M-80’s he’d been tossing
at Mom’s feet all day. His last longneck
uncapped, I break out my stash,

a gross of red-sticked bottle rockets
bank-rolled with paper route cash, the fizz
of each Zippo-lit wick followed

by the shrill whistle and crack
of gunpowder, leaving the air tangy
with sulphur as we start launching

dozens towards Fat Lady’s
dingy green duplex nobody
ever rents for long.

Soon, she’s waddling up the street,
two small boys in tow,
to stand with hands on hips

beneath a nearby streetlight, staring
our way as we grow quiet, hunkered
and sweating among the shadows.


About the writer:
Fred Shaw is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and Carlow University, where he received his MFA.  He teaches writing and literature at Point Park University and Carlow University. His first collection. Scraping Away, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.  A book reviewer and Poetry Editor for Pittsburgh Quarterly, his poem, “Argot,” is featured in the 2018 full-length documentary, Eating & Working & Eating & Working.  The film focuses on the lives of local service-industry workers. His poem “Scraping Away” was selected for the PA Public Poetry Project in 2017.  He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and rescued hound dog.

Image: Pronkstillleven by Abraham van Beyeren (1620-1621-1690). Oil on canvas. 39.1 x 47.4 inches. Between 1655 and 1665. Public domain.