Teal Hunting with Two Old Uncles
Robert Day, author of The Last Cattle Drive and We Should Have Come by Water, a chapbook of poetry
September’s never cold enough for ducks and whiskey.
I shoot in Tee-shirt and moccasins
as green wings hustle from pond to pond
in the yellow morning.
My uncles miss chances, drinking
on the bench deep in the blind
swapping stories about Cheyenne Bottoms
and Snow Geese bigger than the moon.
In the afternoon I work shirtless, laying
strips of sod on the blind’s roof,
careful as my mother tiling her kitchen counter.
My uncles sit on campstools whacking at wasps
with rolled up Ducks Unlimited.
That evening I shot two limits: Blue wings
came in low over the decoys. I dropped
a lone Cinnamon at sundown. My uncles
napped on their bench, twitching.
like old hunting dogs loaded with dreams.
Eden or Lucas, Kansas
Kevin Rabas, author of Bird’s Horn (Coal City Review Press) and End of the Set (Woodley)
as told by my uncle, Charles Keller, who gives tours of the place
“You know where I live? I live right next door to the Garden of Eden.
Up the way’s Paradise, and you go down about a half a mile and you
end up in Hell Crick.” --My grandmother, Bertha (Keller) Rabas
Your father’s mother’s people lived not far
from where old Dinsmoor lies now.
fed old Dinsmoor’s badgers gingersnaps
Sunday mornings while Dinsmoor mixed cement.
Some called it sacrilege,
But Dinsmoor was 64,
and figured the Lord
knowing he had so few
flexible years left to live.
Already he was stiffening.
Evenings, before turning in,
backyard aloe balm
into the cracks in his hands,
fearing his fingers just might crumble
under his wife’s pillow during the night.
He’d spent his whole life
planning the place,
the cabin stacked and mortared
using concrete logs,
the ziggurat for his body
and the body of his wife,
the shed, the garage, the planter,
and Eden above.
while Dinsmoor built out back,
we had to borrow
just to put the wheat
back into the ground.
I thought what he built
would last forever.
However, at the start of autumn
when it rains
you can see the faces
of Dinsmoor’s statues
erode so slowly
it pricks your own skin
No one knows
how to mix the mortar,
no one learned the secret,
so the arms are falling off of Cain,
the legs off Abel,
the breasts of their wives
are crumbling, Adam’s cane is crooked,
Eve’s hair has fallen,
and the snake’s in need
of complete repair.
Gardner Lake Firefighters
Our volunteers couldn’t afford a fire truck.
Instead, we had a fire Beetle –
an orange VW beetle with blazing red lights
on top. Mr. Reed, the fire chief,
would leap into that Beetle and zoom
to the rescue, sirens blaring.
The one hose didn’t work too well, so sometimes
neighbors would form bucket brigades
from the lake to the house aflame.
Once when the lake was frozen six inches deep,
some guys threw snowballs at a burning house
while the other guys tried to crack the ice.
Once when a house hadn’t burned too much,
but its owner really needed some money,
the firefighters got together and tore down the porch
before the insurance adjuster got there.
The Man Who Never Saw the Light of Day
Early morning he dresses in the kitchen
while his wife brews coffee on the stove
and packs his lunch pail, spreading mayonnaise
across white bread, filling the red thermos.
The girl sits in the corner at the table.
She is six and what he calls work, she calls fear.
He puts his hard hat on and his light
and walks in the dark to the mine.
In the evening the girl waits on the steps
watching until his dirt-black face gleams
through the dusk. He is always out of sorts,
raving about what it means to be a man,
to pour his sweat and blood into this family.
The woman keeps her head down and doesn’t answer.
Late at night, her harsh voice penetrates the walls.
Now on spring days my father and I
walk around a town so small
it takes us less than an hour to cross it.
On the west side, we pass a monolith
of eroding concrete and steel,
remains of a worked-out mine.
I knew it was a mistake, your ma and me,
after six weeks, but you were on the way by then.
His voice goes funny and dry.
I catch a whiff of rust,
the seductive decay of long-extracted ore.