Hunting, walking a volcanic valley.
The ash and mud of eruptions past
had turned to furrows, fields of corn
awaiting the harvest,
the clearing of the land.
But the only fires that burned that day
were the equatorial sun,
and those that lurked inside
as I trudged along the planted rows,
dealing death with double barrels.
My father and his friends
hunted somewhere across the field,
while I was on my own,
with my gun and the heat,
and a barefoot boy not quite my age,
a native boy who walked behind
to free the field of fire.
The shooting was slow that day,
with flurries of action—
a whirr of wing, a blast—
punctuating the tedium of dust and sun
as we wandered among the stalks,
smelling of burnt powder
and trying not to think
of thirst, or of how much afternoon
still stretched ahead.
Then a shower of random lead,
pelting down, pattering on the corn.
The pellets startled, stung, but
drew no blood, instead ignited memories
of tales my father told of
fighting in Korean snow the winter I was born.
A bullet straying from a battle
struck my father in the leg,
then fell, spent, harmless and disregarded,
The day before my father
came home to see his wife, and meet
his new-born son, he led a squad of sappers
out to sweep a field, and stepped
on the click of a mine. He stood
for the blast, but
heard only the silence
of a dud.
Even now my father
awakens with the click of the morning clock,
and waits for the alarm.
—Previously published in Houston Poetry Fest Anthology 1987, and as part
of the “Vertigo” sequence in Standing Inside the Web (Bear House
Publishing 1990); appears here with author’s permission
poetry and haiga have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various literary and poetry
magazines such as Concho River Review, Harbinger Asylum, KYSO Flash,
MacQueen’s Quinterly, Poetry24, The Legal Studies Forum, and Visions
International; as well as in several anthologies, including Faery
Footprints (Fae Corp Publishing), Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku &
Haiga (Dos Gatos Press), Texas Poetry Calendar (Kallisto Gaia Press),
Untameable City: Poems on the Nature of Houston (Mutabilis Press), and
His poem “Viewing the Dead” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Two of his
poems appear in
Silent Waters, photographs by George Digalakis (Athens, 2017).
He is the author of two chapbooks, Standing Inside the Web (Bear House
Publishing, 1990) and Fire and Shadows (Legal Studies Forum, 2008) (offprint).
Selections of Gary’s poetry and photography can be found on his website, 4P