Uncle Paulie

“Paulie is a hustler,”
mom used to say

to us he was Uncle Paul
but a hustler
that sounded about right
if he had a new fridge
you could count on it
having fallen of a truck
and somehow ending up
in his kitchen
“for only a few guilders”

he was the kind of uncle
that would just swing by
for a few hours
for drinking
and laughing
– and then driving

to us kids the best story
my mom had to tell
was of Uncle Paul
illegally selling ice cream
from a cargo bike
on Dam Square
always on the lookout
for Amsterdam police
patrolling the area

when he saw them coming,
he’d just ride around the square
until they were gone
and then sell ice cream again

nothing more
that was the story
still, to us, it was
the stuff of legends

he worked as a bartender
after that
owned a bar
and bankrupted it
nobody was surprised
and then as a bartender again

Uncle Paul was not even
a real uncle
he was my parents’ friend
but to us he always was
Uncle Paul
and to my mom he always
was Paulie

we don’t see Uncle Paul
much these days
he spends his time
hustling for money
and then spending it
on holidays in Turkey

walks with brown leathery
feet in flip-flops every day
of the year
always looking for ways
to get back to the sun
as fast as he can

he must be over
70 years old now
but I swear he’d easily
go and sell ice cream
without a license
on Dam Square,
evading the cops
just to pay for a few weeks
of vacation

and just see what happens
when it happens

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