A Waldorf Salad
The Waldorf was always Grandad’s hotel –
the place he had helped to build but never
got to stay in. From his room in the Bronx,
did he hop on the El to leave his mark
on Manhattan’s skyline? It’s too late now
to check the details, as I try at least
to plot his absent years back from the splash
of its opening to the Wall Street Crash.
Working out his children’s ages, a gap’s
revealed, and then how old he must have been –
a Volunteer with mouths to feed, his goal
something better than the Irish Free State.
His cause in abeyance, he chanced his luck
abroad, where he found the future rooted
in its bottom line. He returned with cash
and tall stories, a few Yankee phrases.
But what did he make of bootleg whisky,
when he had no chance of a quiet pint;
or the well-dressed hoodlums and shoeshine boys
who had never crossed fields or dug a ditch?
Above his head the sky’s a chart, criss-crossed
with girders, on one of which two workers
have started tucking in. A step away,
two waiters hover whose aim it is to please.