A Cigarette From Frank

I used to work for a charity organization;
I didn’t volunteer or anything,
they gave me a job,
a paying job.
The hours were standard,
the pay was shit,
but it was a job.
The purpose of this particular organization
was to provide jobs to people
who couldn’t really work anymore;
who had sustained some injury,
or had some sickness
and were unable to work
in any standard sense.
This organization would provide
them with mostly menial tasks
to fill out their days
and make them feel as though
they still had a purpose,
and provide them with a small
to supplement their
disability payments.

The jobs
they were given to do
mostly consisted of
stuffing envelopes,
collating papers,
or assembiling
cardboard boxes.

Insert tab ‘A’ into slot ‘B’

My job was to sort of
help out in running things
and also
stuff envelopes
and assemble
cardboard boxes
when there wasn’t enough
disabled people there to
finish the task on time.

There was one man there
named Frank.
He’d been there longer than anyone.
He was in his seventies
and had
a stroke
at some time in the past.

The stroke had affected
his motor skills
and his speech.
He’d lost most of the use of one arm.
He could still walk,
but had difficulty doing so.
His speech was little more
than grunts, groans and a series of hums.
Most people
couldn’t understand
what Frank was saying.
But, after you spent some time around him
you sort of learned
to figure out his meaning.

Frank had a kindness about him.
He was a remarkable man.
He’d lived a life,
a hell of a life.
He radiated a warmth,
and above all,
he reeked of a wisdom
that gave him a strength
that the most youthful and able of bodies
could never provide.
He was generous.
He was immensely likable.
Even though his form was twisted,
his speech unnatural and labored,
after a short time,
you just sort of stopped seeing that.
It all seemed to just disappear
and Frank became
just Frank,
no different than anyone else who worked there.

He was funny,
he was generous,
the most noticeable thing about Frank
was that he was always trying
to give everyone cigarettes,
Every time you saw him
he would open his pack of cigarettes,
take one out,
hold it out towards you
and grunt: “Ungh-aouw? ”

He did this constantly throughout the day
to anyone who came into contact with him.
That’s largely how he was known:
“If you see Frank” It was known throughout the building,
“He will offer you a cigarette.”

I liked Frank a lot.
He had a wisdom about him,
a wisdom that only seventy some odd years
of putting up with life’s shit
can give you.
He had a kindness about him,
a warmth,
a friendliness.
I liked Frank a lot.

One day Frank came up in a conversation
between my boss and I.
My boss at that job was an ok guy too.
He was young,
although still quite a bit older than me at the time.
He was friendly,
but had no sort of special friendliness about him.
He was kind,
but had no sort of special kindness about him.
He had no sort of wisdom about him at all.

“Don’t accept cigarettes from Frank.”
He told me
”Frank pisses on his fingers.”

How differently we view people
I thought.
How differently we all see each other.
What individually different worlds
we all inhabit.

by Derek R. Audette

Comments (3)

I saw your comment on a bukowski poem- I can see the influence! But you are original enough to maintain my interest. So Kudos! I will read more...-]0[
I really like this poem Derek! You write about good stuff :) from your heart. I like that alot and will continue to look for and read your work. Although this is only the second poem of yours that I've read, I feel that you are indeed genuine and coming from a really good place. I wish every soul could take heed. THAT WOULD BE MY ONE AND ONLY WISH thanks for sharing and caring ;) ;) ;)
Fantastic, I work in a similar job(my title vocational trainer) like you're style again though my bias toward conversational poetry showing Anyway, this poem is excellent Tom