Sunday, May 24, 2009

Untitiled by Anthony McCarthy

Waiting for the library board meeting,
looking at the old photos in the town hall display case
Old G.A.R. members.

In the captions, a familiar name, he lived in the house you grew up in,
Though no relation, it was his family farm.
You learned something about them from the document search
from when you researched the boundary dispute.
There he is, an old farmer, you seem to remember he died in 1915, the picture is undated.
Straight, serious, bearded. In a uniform with a sash, No hat, as formal as Sherman.
But a farmer. You know his barn, he built it.
You imagine him mucking the stalls, cursing the flies, the smell.
You know he worried over his crops, cut himself when he sawed wood.
Might have sworn like a trooper, for all you know.
You know he had a brother who lived in the house, who survived him.
It doesn’t say in the deeds and wills but you get the feeling he was helpless
An old farmer once told you a story about him being ‘tetched’.
“Had a walking stick made of an ox dick.”
The old soldier must have worried about him because he made provision for him in his will.
He was the last of the family, the lawyer sold the farm
And new surnames supplant his
On the deeds.

You know that, you know nothing else but that he was a veteran
and you have a slate frame with his initials on it.
The picture shows nothing about the war.
You are certain he didn’t stand like that much,
Though not twenty and, no doubt, able.
The old man, the only picture you’ve ever seen,
Before you knew only his name on the stone,
On the monument bought by the lawyer, after his brother,
The last of the name, died in ‘24.