My Great Uncle Jerry, a Villanelle
by Nonnie Augustine

Jeremiah Sherwood was Irish, Catholic, and gay.
Loving men a secret he’d determined to hide,
as a man of those times, he saw no other way.

When Jerry took a drink my Grandma would say,
he’d link arms with trouble; they’d stroll side by side.
Jeremiah Sherwood was Irish, Catholic, and gay.

He was the Milk and Egg Man for families who’d pay
on time when they had it or he’d let their bill slide.
Through Depression and War, he saw no other way.

Jerry could soft-shoe like Astaire in his day
He’d show me the steps, applaud when I tried.
My great-uncle Sherwood was Irish, Catholic, and gay.

At seventy-two Jerry first went to AA,
and didn’t drink again till the day that he died.
He’d had enough drunks, so he found a new way.

Born to immigrants flung to New York with the tide,
he lived trapped in old rules he was taught to abide.
Jerry Sherwood was Irish, Catholic, a closeted gay—
in our faith, in our family, he’d no other way.