The Boss (In Honor of Labor Day)

The Boss – Thomas Owen Randall and Wife Iva Randall

 

He was always referred to as
The Boss.
Tall and slender,
with warm brown skin
and a regal
yet humble
bearing,
Bearing family secrets
he took to his grave,
He commanded respect,
though his voice seldom
rose above a whisper.
I.
He took his 3rd grade education
and uncanny math skills
from his home
in Calvert County
to West Baltimore,
Settling into a tiny,
three-story rowhouse
(later fitted with Formstone)
on Bloom Street,
with his wife,
an equally tall and regal,
but buxom,
woman
said to have Indian blood—
and the nose and cheekbones
to “prove” it.
Together,
over a span of 19 years
(1912-1931)
they raised
eight children
in the tiny,
four-bedroom house.
His World War I Draft Card,
issued in 1917,
declared him
exempt from serving,
owing to his status
as a head of household.
In those days,
donning knee-high leather boots
and balloon pants,
he rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle,
toddling his wife
and their young children
in a sidecar.
He was never seen
without a starched shirt,
and only rarely
without a necktie or bolo.
So good with his hands
was he that, over time,
he replaced
the outhouse
in the backyard
with an indoor bath
with full plumbing,
replaced the wood-burning stove
and icebox
with modern appliances,
replaced the wooden floors,
mended the three flights of stairs,
and painted the interior
several times over.
II.
His 48-year employment
with the C & P Telephone Company
was mythical.
From executive chauffer
to trusted courier,
he rose through the ranks,
eventually opening the door
to more Black employees,
vetted by his record and his word
alone,
His friends and children
among the many workers
he entrusted jobs to.
III.
In retirement,
he started a cleaning service,
employing his young grandchildren
to clean C & P phone booths
all over Maryland
(including Scaggsville),
enticing them
with the promise
of a day-old bun
and a Coke,
his favorite beverage.
He’d pile his children,
(and later,
grands and great-grands)
into his pristine, old gray Buick,
fitting the littlest ones
onto the footstools
on the floor in back,
for day trips to amusement parks
and two-week visits to family in Atlantic City
every Summer.
And the Day-After-Christmas
was reserved for the
ever-growing family
dinner and gift exchange
at The House.
IV.
In 1971,
two weeks after
planning and overseeing
a Grand Family Reunion,
The Boss,
Patriarch of 3 daughters,
5 sons,
35 grandchildren,
and 29 great-grandchildren,

took his last breath
and was laid to rest.
His wife joined him,
6 weeks later.

 

This poem, originally published on baltimoreblackwoman.comwas premiered during the Labor Day Literary Extravaganza hosted by Rafael Alvarez, at Ikaros Restaurant, September 1, 2019 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoEPXvYOdHE

 

Announcing a New Literary Journal: History of Poetry in Baltimore / 1945 to the present

From Jackie Oldham: On January 12, 2019, I joined forces with Baltimore writer Rafael Alvarez and his partner in crime — Tyrone Crawley; founders of the Story Company in the late 1980s, to launch a new, on-line literary journal.

The first post, of our inaugural meeting at G&A Coney Island hot dogs, was published on January 13 [https://braciolejournal.com/2019/01/13/braciole-literary-journal-meeting-at-ga-01-12-19/] by Rafael.

We encourage you to click on the above link to view, like, and comment on it—we need outside proof that we exist. For now, the sharing option will take you to the Facebook page Baltimoreblackwoman. This sharing option will be updated as soon as possible.

All nail-biting aside, I am excited to announce the launch of History of Poetry in Baltimore / 1945 to the present.

This site will explore the wide-ranging and still evolving poetry scene in Baltimore, and our newly discovered, shared experiences with this history.

Your humble co-founder and Braciole web-master,

Jackie Oldham