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July 2016, vol 12 no 2

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Beverly Acuff Momoi


The picture is still in its original frame, cheap metal with a worn velvet-covered back that unfolds to make a stand. The edges are tattered where it stood on her dresser for decades. The glass covering the photograph is broken, a star of shards radiating just below the eyes. Another blunt-edged star of cellophane tape holds the fragments in place.

ghost notes
in the early morning
frost flowers

After he died, the photograph arrived in the mail. A soldier with unwavering gray eyes looks straight into the camera. Hat brim level. Tie well-knotted. Shoulders squared.

1942: He was 19, a private in an Army camp in New York with nothing to do but wait to be shipped out. His mother was so angry when he enlisted. The picture was his peace offering. He wanted her to see him in his uniform. To make up for leaving her alone on the farm.

He had followed his big brother to the war, just like he followed him when they were kids. Looking for a good time. Looking with those gray hazel eyes.

cotton burrs
and broken down fences
Delta camouflage

I was five the first time we left him. Mom took me and my sister on a Greyhound bus to see Grandmother in New Mexico. It was a short visit. She said her daughter had made her bed, she needed to get back to it. So we came home and pretended everything was normal.

jagged green glass
where the TV used to be
triggered lightning

That’s what I remember. His eyes. Like granite, with yellow flecks of hardness. When we stopped speaking, his eyes were so many shades of gray, they were like weather vanes predicting storms, skittering around, this way and that, never at rest.

last leaf
on the dogwood tree
past imperfect