Three times a Pushcart nominee, Kari Gunter-Seymour’s work can be found in many fine journals, anthologies and publications – Rattle, Still, CALYX, Main Street Rag, The American Journal of Poetry and The LA Times– as well as on her website: http://www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. Her latest chapbook Serving (Crisis Chronicles Press) was released in 2018. She is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project, (www.womenofappalachia.com), a recently retired Instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and Immediate Past Poet Laureate for Athens, OH
November is the month my son dreads.
Too many dead in November, he says.
When they come to him now, it’s as
full body experiences, rapid-fire,
built of muscle memory, bile in his mouth,
propellant fumes, exit wounds, zippered bags.
I cradled them, until
there was just nothing there.
My only frame of reference,
the way my father fought for last breaths,
shook, straightened his crippled legs.
Or every dear old dog, I rocked
on my heels, eyes to the sky,
knowing it was their time.
Outside my window, two deer
are shadow shapes, hides dappled
by light as they forage for acorns,
capped confections, hidden
beneath tapestries of coppered leaves.
A red-tailed competes for my ears.
What I am afraid of, is never finding
the brave heart my son had been,
the farm boy, the quipster,
the Ren & Stimpy impersonator
who boarded the plane, now camouflaged
in anxiety meds and a skeletal body.
A blue jay pecks a seedcake,
a sparrow picks at crumbs below.
Two cardinals, one perched,
one wing-fluttering at the feeder,
vie for millet, their feathers edged
in morning sun.
When my father visits me in memory,
he often saunters through my head
the way he sauntered through my childhood,
pausing to light a Parliament Menthol,
reminding me to not take shit from anyone,
but always own up to my mistakes.
We don’t get to choose our memories,
they are triggered.
Guilt comes the same way,
unreeling from our darkest places,
the awful wait for the agonal breath.