Diptych with Hinge

David E. Lowery (1861 -1908)

I.

He's the one not here
            among the great-grandfathers
on the guest-room wall   faceless
            except that his red hair appears
in one               of the only two stories:
all there was
            to be passed down the line
by voices of ghosts         of voices

peeling potatoes
                        his wife looks up when he clomps
into the cabin    out-of-sorts           riled-up
by the other field hands picking at him
            for being a Mick
                                    which I ain't he says
Why you dumb lunk she says          thrusting out
their single banged-up mirror
See that hair                    you're Irish as these spuds

a daughter-in-law he'd never meet
            my grandma                  told me that one
trying to account            it seems now
for the wealth of ignorance she'd found
                                                among the Lowerys
their hoe-scratched gardens         two-bit wages
whatever fool notion lured them from Missouri
            west on bad roads          hacked straight
across the buffalo grounds         

handbills he couldn't read
tin cup promises:            deeded land
                                    ample rain
up ahead
at the line where plains meet hills
                                                thin air shimmering

II.

a cold Colorado wind
slices between the slats of the other story
            seven children    January
a sod shanty on the claim
            where they cut cedars for fence posts
the boys            arguing with the neighbors about
                                    whose land        and who says so

my dad just meant to scare them off
we handed him the gun        then Boom
and Boom            real loud he fell back
from the doorway onto the bed
and he was gone    just like that
                                                the baby kept
trying to wake him up

that voice was my grandpa's           age twelve
age seventy-eight            still turning it over
without a solid anything
                        for his hands to hold
no snapshot
            in the jumbled shoeboxes
no salt-cracked leather belt
no family bible with names going back      

and David:        just swallowed up and gone
            lean or broad         handsome or homely
into the hard-crust graveyard at Stonington
                                    where someone
noted in the record book                                                                       
             d. from gunshot wound
            10 Jan 1908
then poured a
                        square-foot of cement
took a rounded stick and wrote
            Mason Lowery
mistaking him    for the older son
who'd carried him
            to that final        nowhere
            somewhere not his own
                                               and no further

Volume 11.2 - December 2018

SCOTT LOWERY LIVES WITH HIS WIFE AND CATS IN THE SMALL TOWN OF ROLLINGSTONE, SITUATED IN THE DRIFTLESS ZONE OF SOUTHEASTERN MN. POST-RETIREMENT FROM TEACHING SCHOOL, HE’S LED WORKSHOPS FOR TEEN POETS, TAUGHT SESSIONS AT YOUNG WRITERS CONFERENCES, AND HAS NEW WORK FORTHCOMING IN THIRD WEDNESDAY AND COMMON GROUND. LOWERY'S CHAPBOOK EMPTY-HANDED IS AVAILABLE FROM RED DRAGONFLY PRESS.