When my father was a boy
he talked for long hours
to his mother in the hospital
after his brother shot him.

Family lore claims it was an accident.
A bullet left in the chamber
while cleaning the rifle—
a Sharps model 1878 I was told.

This was in a rural part of Illinois
that had yet to receive phone service.
You had to speak face to face
or not at all.

My father was too old for coloring books.
I picture grandmother reading
Tom Sawyer or The Connecticut Yankee
In King Arthur’s Court
aloud to him.

I suspect farm injury fears
are different than city injury fears
in the details, but not on how
they disfigure a body and person.

Maybe mothers held their tongues,
knowing boys had to learn to be men.
She had mostly worried
about his hours on the threshing machine.

My father was the first in the family
to leave the farm for good.
His mother wept at the train station
when he boarded for Chicago and university.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


Long ago, my father told me that my uncle (his brother) shot him when they were young. He did not give much detail. So I built his poem around that little nugget of history he shared. So this poem is truth diluted with imagination to fill in the gaps. He did leave the farm for Chicago to attend university and he did not return to live on the farm.

The heat wave has swept the USA and has affected Albuquerque with three 100+ degree days in a row and we are forecast for more. Those of you who live in areas experiencing this heat, please take care of yourselves. Here, outdoor activities are completed by 10:00 a.m. I usually get 10 miles of bicycling in before 9:00 a.m. I would like to say, I sweat like a pig, but in Albuquerque’s dry heat, the sweat evaporates too fast to bead on the skin.

Love & Light


One thought on “Departed

  1. Wonderful exploration of family history. When we don’t know all the details, fleshing them out in the creative process can be a helpful way to process our own stories. Stay safe in this awful heat, my friend 💙


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