Letter to the Unborn

The first and only time I hunted deer my Father and I holed up
in an old rust bucket Ford van. Rear doors flung open to the woods,
we passed secrets between us. Cocoa with butterscotch Schnapps.
Limericks. That the boy a block down dropped a piece of granite
on a killdeer nest between the tracks. Crosshairs swayed over steam
and snowy woods, searching for Bambi. Don’t name
what you intend to kill.

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arriving

not many deer crossed the road back then
but life was wild i remember the call

october 1959 i was nearly 9 mama was
in the house on the phone i could hear her

crying moaning talking i was standing behind
the barn it was hotter than hot i started praying

for granddaddy to live to be all right i was just
a boy but granddaddy was special to me

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The House of Hunley

The House of Bourbon ruled Europe
for centuries, but do we remember
their laws, their names, their restoration
to power after the bloody French Revolution?
In most of our houses, they’re not remembered
at all, though we invoke their names at AA meetings
or when supping the corn mash elixir that teaches us
how to forget, all because French-speaking
settlers sought to honor them by christening
their new Kentucky home Bourbon County.

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Characters for a Novel of the Days

Mostly, days sauntered by
like strangers come on Saturday
to the county seat:
there’d be Wednesday,
t-shirted, bearded, smoking a Bugler he’d rolled
himself, thinking of squirrels and the mighty football team
of Beallsville. Or Monday would show up,
brooding by the soldier’s monument
before the Monroe County Court House,
three June turkeys he’d bagged
under the game warden’s radar
stashed like Ice Age boulders in his freezer.

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Triptych, Ending in Antietam

In the Prints & Drawings Room, V&A,
a pencil moves across paper, the soft sound
rising in the morning air. On the table before me,
a blue box of Cameron’s photographs, the heavy lid
creaking like old wood when I lift it, the photographs
in their thick mats stacked neat inside, a sheet
of rice paper covering each like a shroud.

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stevie fell out

there were more than 20 of us piled crammed
squeezed front and back i was sitting on

mama’s lap my brother brad was sitting
on my lap granddaddy was at the wheel

speeding up matanzas road to centertown
when the old ford swerved in the sharp

crow nose curve the back passenger door
popped open and stevie fell out when

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