Sunday, April 29, 2012

28 of 30 Elegy for Milford Russell

I remember only once,
riding behind the stickshift in a rusted Chevy
sticking to vinyl seats
Hank Williams on the radio, and I
eight or nine, you gave me a drink of your beer,
some chewing tobacco.
We rode out and picked up some bales of hay.
I tried to lift, to be a good grandchild,
but my arms were weak, and you laughed
You did not remember my name.

The corn was drowned, the mud cracked and bloated
Merle Haggard was drunk
I went fishing once, with some relation of yours
a son from your second wife, I think
he showed me how put the hook through the minnow's eyes
I caught nothing but a tiny bluegill, too small to keep.
You were not there.

When you were sick, I went with your daughters
to load some cattle onto a truck,
to sell and pay your medical bills.
The cows were spooked, the bull angry, his head down
Your daughters frightened and useless.
The cows uninterested in dent corn and dying
I forced them up the ramp,
sent them to slaughter,
You did not thank me.

At your burial, your steel grey pompadour
rail thin in a black suit and tie, dressed for town
with wood paneling and lillies,  muzak and Jesus.
I did not know you at all.

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