Luther Herman Tilley
by Debi Swim
Luther Sherman Tilley you were born
but liked Herman better so changed it,
still everyone called you Luther
‘cept me, you were grandpa to me.
You talked with a wuffle
Cause you had no teeth
Though your lips didn’t cave in as
Toothless ones do.
Your Irish red hair dulled to sand
topped a face weathered by time and fights
from your hot tempered youth .
A broken nose, blinded right eye, missing fingers,
relics of work accidents in the mine and mill,
could have looked harsh and unkind
but softened under your
You carried a small knife in your pocket
A multi-purpose affair of handiness
That cut off corns,
Sliced apples into bite sized nubs
You mushed with strong gums,
Daubed Vick’s down the back of your throat
To sooth a cough,
And plucked tiny splinters from tiny fingers.
You wore plaid shirts and striped pants
To Mom and Grandma’s annoyance,
You smelled of Aqua Velva in the morning
and hard work at night.
You watched Matt Dillon and Ben Cartwright religiously
And read your Bible, cover to cover, worshipfully
And that is the picture I carry in my head,
you in your favorite chair with God’s word on your knee.
Debi’s process notes:
My father died when I was six years old so my mother, brother, sister and I returned to live with my mom’s parents in Shouns, TN until I was thirteen. My grandparents were my roots and security and this poem reflects my love and thankfulness to my grandfather.
Debi Swim, wife for 36 years, mother of three children (who live in Washington, Ohio and Alabama) and grandmother of six adorable boys, lives in West Virginia. She enjoys writing poetry, reading science fiction/dystopian, and being a homebody.