Sixty years have turned old walnut to satin,
put nicks and scratches in once-blued steel worn silver;
sixty years of car fenders and barbed wire,
riding muzzle-down against the pickup seat;
sixty years of lunches spent leaning against trees and fence posts,
then nestled in an elbow’s crook,
or carried at the ready,
pushing through brush, plum thickets,
deep draws of tallgrass cover.
The mystery of a sleeve of worn, oily canvas
in the back of the closet with the rifle and the rods and reels;
the wonder of the engraving:
birds and dogs and upland landscape.
a thin steel rod, the smell of gun oil and tobacco.
A wear-softened canvas vest with stained game pocket,
back loops still holding waxy paper shells from the old days;
too small over more than one wool shirt,
the crude leather patch saving it for a few more seasons,
lying on the back porch beside muddy boots,
or hanging on a nail with an ear-flapped cap and coveralls.
I do not shoot it often,
fighting the urge to be too careful;
a new nick or scratch,
my hands, now, adding patina to the wood.
Wearing the vest now and then, I try to carry it well –
it is my father’s gun.
Also by Phil Yearout