From the orphanage Al came to
Work on the farm as what you’d call
Hired boy if he might get enough
To call hire. Back at the wood pile
Chopping stove-lengths, he taught me the
Dirty words I’d never heard of
Or learned from farm observation,
And generally explained how
Folks went in for fun, adding that
A farm was one hell of a place
For finding fun.
He’d excuse himself after sup-
per and go sit on the stile with
Bob, the big white farm bulldog, close
At his side, and watch the sun sink
Back of the barn or, maybe in
The opposite direction, the
It was a copperhead
Bit Bob, and nothing, it looked like,
Would make him better. Just after
Supper one night, my uncle stood
On the front porch and handed a
Twelve-gauge to Al, and said, “Be sure
You do it right back of the head.”
He never named Bob’s name.
Was white as clabber, but he took
The gun, not saying a word, just
Walking away down the lane, to-
ward sunset, Bob too, me follow-
ing. Then, in the woods where it was
Nigh dark, he did it. He gave me
The gun, smoke still in the muzzle,
Said, “Git on, you son-of-a-bitch,”
And I got on and then he lay
On the dead leaves crying, even
Before I was gone.
That night he
Never came home, and the Sheriff
Never found him.
It was six months
Before I went back in the woods
To the place. There was a real grave
There. There was a wood cross on the
Grave. Al must have come back to the
Barn for the shovel and hammer,
And back again to hang them up.
We’d never known they had been touched.
It must have taken nigh moonset.
March 3, 1977