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4 Poems With Old Man Brunner in Them, by Leo Dangel

January 6, 2011

These poems cut their toenails with a tin shears.

Some people move to the city and feel lost.  But for a kid like me who grew up in the city, to move from Minneapolis, Boston, and Bellingham, WA, to Worthington, MN (pop. 11,000), a dozen years ago was an experiment in distress.  Turns out, the tangle of roads, the churning traffic, the throngs of strangers had all been privacy.

Here, though, I felt uncomfortably watched for the first few years.  Students rented me videos, church people were in the grocery aisles, old folks who walked past my house in the afternoons asked about my kids at the voting booth, and even the strangers here waved at me with two fingers from their steering wheels like we’d just finished a conversation.  The same people were everywhere, and I was vaguely threatened and suffocated.

Old Man Brunner?  Well, he’s been part of curing my callow misanthropy for a few years now.  That incorrigible SOB is everywhere in Home from the Field, his own crusty self, my neighbor now, like it or not.  But I love the poems, and the poems love him, so I’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt, right?  How about some pinochle, Old Man?

“Old Man Brunner on Halloween Night,” “Old Man Brunner Nails Jesus to the Cross for Wendell and Bernice,” “Old Man Brunner and the Traveling Salesman,” “Old Man Brunner Sits on His Porch,” and lots of other Old Man Brunner poems are in Leo Dangel’s book, Home from the Field (Spoon River, 1997).

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 10:41 am

    I’ve heard similar sentiments from folks who have moved from the city to this small community! Small town living really is strange. Several years back Mike and I were at the “reverse osmosis watering hole” downtown and a stranger began to inquire about us. (It’s weird to me how some strangers push with comfortable familiarity. ) Anyway, we introduced ourselves and that was enough. The man took it from there and told us all he knew about us from who we’re related to, where we were building in the country down to where we had purchased the sandstone we were using for building… I assumed he knew how many tons and at what price we’d purchased it. I wondered what else he knew about us!
    I found a greeting card with a sentiment that pretty much sums it up, “One of the nice things about living in a small town is that when I don’t know what I’m doing everybody else does.”

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