the shooter

November 17, 2017

“he was cleaning his gun…”

that’s what they said

four daughters and a son

that was his legacy

a beloved wife

who bustled at home

in a flowered housecoat

hanging christmas cards

at the holidays

she collected nesting dolls

canned her own garden vegetables

and made the world’s best goulash

 

their kids grown and gone

to the state’s farthest reaches

making lives and families

of their own far away

they had only each other

in that four bedroom house

built by his company

for all their employees

who toiled in the factory

making shoes in the 20’s

 

his only son a big burly man

with a full happy beard

like a ginger Santa Claus

gone too soon from

a heart attack at the wheel

the old beloved wife died a year later

graced with beautiful Amish fat

his first great gentle love

her kidneys, then her heart

yes, he ran the machines

that created the shoes

and before that, in the war

a prison guard at Leavenworth

 

for years they had an old cabin

complete with an outhouse

near the green hammock

in the autumn woods where

he tapped sugar maple trees

and boiled down his own syrup

a hex sign above the A-frame shed

he sculpted figures from forest wood

he fed fat grey raccoons

tablescraps under the picnic table

next to an old tire swing

which curved, slightly sagged from

decades of little kid’s bottoms

 

they had love and family

then he just had aloneness

and a fine old gun collection

isolation in an empty pink house

prone to creaking in the wind

up narrow wooden stairs

to empty daughter rooms

German Luger pistols

souveneirs from the war

pump-action hunting rifles

his blue eyes traced the memories

fanciful yellow matroyshka dolls

cut glass crystal candy dishes

and boxes of old christmas cards

 

his children could not

assuage the old man’s sorrow

a bit of his pink-stained skull

found embedded so shallow

in the bullet-hole plaster

above the red flecked formica table

where so many bowls of goulash were served

the expert with firearms

had tears in his eyes

made the falsehood look real

a showman’s grand illusion

and the daughters said to the world

he was cleaning his gun…”

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