The old man lived for the sound
of a chicken squawking, the sentry’s
warning at which he drew back
light from a windowless cabin, a
portal cut squarely at eye-level
in a single oaken door, then stuck
the sightless barrel directionlessly out
into night that thundered once with
tremulous pleasure. It was a
fathomless mouth that stood only
long enough for a single syllable to
catch in the throat, waiting for
lagging memory to travel the circuit
of recognition that one had made
no mistake about it: Henry Everett
was seeing no visitors.
A ragged hem of snow stretched
beyond the moon’s savage shadow
of a tree cast in silhouette, nimble
pine, too skinny to serve even as
camouflage for my father, himself
then a boy. His choice? To crackle
leaves underfoot, hoping not to
awaken Henry’s keen ear to the
absence of direction. For he could
see nothing and, therefore, nothing
was safe. Even his kin, growing
more distant by the moment, considered
My father held his breath like a secret.
Not even the music of a raucous
gymnasium, where cheers had lifted
him above air, could rise to an occasion
equal to the ringing of silence fostered
by intervals, lapses between doubts
that, for once, the tamped blast might
find its target unawares. How to live
with the jest of being pocked while
trying to outrun an assault waged
with closed eyes, or worse, to be buried
under the irony of a stone whose
pompous alphabet offered final, curious
tribute: Killed without aiming to.
The boy my father had been cursed
all that poultry could become. For
it was the goddam chickens, he
said, with their less than pebbled
brains, that clucked the alarm
enabling Henry to gain advantage
beyond his years. That my father
had dived for a ditch frozen in its
contours and scraped his way home
where a single naked bulb shone
like frost from an indeterminate
distance was testimonial to the virtue
of all a chance could take.
As for Henry, time had silenced
the roving sight of his rage
levelled at no one in particular.
They’d removed his fingers from
the trigger one autumn, laying to
rest the sound of fear rustling in
his arteries. Soon all grew up
around him, without once betraying
a single sign of life. And while none
sought to trouble the frozen nest
of his exasperated winter, some few
recalled the echo of his welcome
which, to the well-aimed ear, still
trembled and endured.
**Cabin Picture Source: Pixabay/ AstralniHorizonti
**Shotgun Source: Pexels/ Ünsal Demirbaş
Your father obviously was both an inspiration and a source for many of your poems. He must have been quite a story teller. I’m wondering if the format of your poem reflects the way your father told the story; or if not, I’d be interested in your thoughts?
Very good Mr. F!!! still remember the one you wrote about the Ut tribe lol.
I like this very much. Powerful imagery.