Twelve of us stand, hands encircling
your granite-topped kitchen island.
Eleven offer prayers of Thanksgiving,
while you weep.
Medicine’s cornucopia failed you.
Now it’s pain and acupuncture, brutal,
additive opioids or brain stem injections.
Later, I take our four sons of two families
romping through leaves from winter-bare oaks,
to build driftwood forts by the Flatrock River.
I can’t remember, in our decades as siblings,
any prior moment when you openly wept.
Our four boys imagine riverside wars,
negotiate play-battle near a small pool
of Rosyface Shiner minnows,
separate from the Flatrock’s main body.
You’re thinning toward gaunt, and tried
to warn me by phone about your crying,
but I had no concept.
The Flatrock chuckles, November empty.
Minnows flash over rotting leaves in just
one pool, cut from Mother River by a fallen
chestnut tree. Now, I admire courage,
with an Irish respect for all things addictive,
but please mind the cost of pain.
One hard freeze or hungry bird
could kill all those lovely minnows.
Perhaps we could dig
a channel from pool to river.
I check my watch and shout,
our boys settle final treaties.
We can wish minnows
had the life they deserve,
but it is time to go.
About the Author: John Haugh lives in Greensboro, NC where he works in finance and is trying to assemble his first chapbook, Repurpose Those Ghosts. Recent other publishing credits include poems appearing in Main Street Rag, Kackalack, the Roanoke Review, Peregrine, North Carolina Literary Review, and The Tipton Poetry Review. Mr. Haugh was a finalist for the Applewhite poetry award recently, was a NCAA national champion in fencing years ago, and spent untold hours browsing Oxford Books in Atlanta and Powell’s City of Books in Oregon when young.
Image Credit: “Wagon hit with fallen tree” (1922) The Library of Congress