IT’S CHARGED WITH MY BROTHER’S KARMA HE SAID
It’s charged with my brother’s karma he said
as he broke the shotgun
like the trunk of a young ironwood
and looked inside as if he
fully expected to surprise something funny
going on behind his back in both barrels
then plunked it down on the table
as if he were laying down
hard cold cash for something.
He took his life with it.
I’ll do the same when my time comes.
And how will you know when that will be? I asked
as he took a long merciless sip of Olde Crow Whiskey.
If you got to ask you’d pass right by it
even if I told you where it’s at.
And that was that
as the bottle thumped down on the table
like an adamant gavel.
I didn’t press the point.
I didn’t ask for a starmap.
I let it rest like most of his ancestors
in a cemetery up near Northbrook
Highway 7 runs through
on your way to Peterborough
past Tweed where Elvis Presley lives.
Earlier in the day I had walked
among the gravestones
of two tribal backwoods families
prodigiously askew and fabulously lonely
sinking into the long wet-haired disorderly grass
indecently green for this time of year,
unkempt dandelions and rusty Indian paintbrush
the colour of cars in the backfields of l950
lying side by side
like angry chequers swept off the board
not one in ten of which
died a natural death.
Hangings, suicides, tragic accidents,
that everyone’s related to
for miles around in the smokey grey woods
watching from a distance,
bodies hanging from barn rafters,
crushed under overturned tractors,
blood spatter on the bedroom walls
that had seen them conceived and born
and a haemorrhage like the scattered petals
of a single red rose left on the mattress
when the time came to know what hour it was.
I wanted to ask him
but I didn’t want to tread on sacred ground,
as a rosary of Canada geese passed south
appearing through the kitchen window
like the flint knappings of a stone arrow
November was carving high over head.
When it came time for him to depart
did he put the shotgun up to his mouth
or his heart?