Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shredded Family Photographs

There's an old, burnt out barn on the edge of the property.
That structure's got some history.
Built before the Depression, back when people still farmed dirt,
The barn stabled the horses, and lofted the hay.
This acreage is where our father was raised
Alongside livestock and crops.
Did you know he had a brother we never met?
That is, we never had the chance to meet him.
There was one summer when Uncle was fourteen, and dear old Dad
Was eight. Being the elder, our uncle took on the farm
When our grandfather ran off and lost his life to rye-whiskey.
At fourteen, being the patriarch left Dad's brother exhausted,
He took to smoking his father's pipe--
The taste of the old man's fatal habit lingered midst the tobacco.
Our grandmother didn't approve,
So the man of the house walked in the woods bordering the property
Where he was able to smoke, alone with his thoughts.
By mid-season these nightly walks were routine as our Uncle adjusted.
That July brought troubles.
The Sun scorched the crops, and a wolf stalked the horses.
Grandma told me of our uncle camped in a rocker on the porch.
A rifle resting on his lap, primed and waiting for the mutt to show its tail.
Uncle would sit there through the night, even when it was took dark to shoot.
With the night still and dark, all that could be heard was a match striking,
And all that could be seen was the sight of his nose
Silhouetted under the small ember of tobacco burning.
A young man of routine and dedication, he planned to camp there every night
Until that wolf reared its head, ready to be slain.
But then the rain came killing the drought.
It stormed for a week, now the worry was the crops would drown,
Or the barn would blow over.
Dad told me of the night he woke up the house;
Screaming, he stirred from slumber to the horses spooked by thunder.
Our uncle went to the barn to calm the horses; he sat there safe from rain,
Gently pulling from his pipe.
The horses were calm, but the storm was galloping harder against the roof
And with a gust of wind, the barn's maw opened,
Revealing one grey canine of a tooth, salivating in the rain.
The wolf headstrong and hungry, pounced the brother
Removing any obstacle impeding its meal.
In his final gasp of surprise, our uncle shot ember from his pipe,
Setting hay ablaze,
And a new Vesuvius bore hellfire in the barn.
Flames consumed the dog, and shot horses running from the pits.
Apocalypse had reached the farm, ending our family's way of life.
Their lives were shanties built from sticks, waiting to topple
---The craft of men and boys.

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