The Junkyard Owner Walks His Labrador
Ryan G. Van Cleave

Old McKeebie, Fran Marx, and the O’Briens—
their houses are well-kept, yards manicured,
station wagons and trucks freshly scrubbed.
Good people, their lives the zealous hum of honeybees,
but squint hard and you’ll see their shadows
are miserable.  We live, myself included, by the hope
of moving on, refusing to surrender to the shame
of failing to be what we should have been.

But not my father, God bless his soul.  With half
his jaw riddled with abscesses and bleeding tobacco pits
that finally kept him from eating pineapple-rhubarb pie,
he borrowed a shotgun then found blind courage
in the dry streambed behind the new Wal-Mart. 

I was seven, unable to appreciate ache without end,
the unhurried sounds of a hammer against your skull. 
The Haberdashery has “two-for-one sale” painted
on a wooden block in sunburst letters, but all
that’s on my mind is how when my wife says
I can hear our baby’s heartbeat by pressing my head
here, or over here, all I notice is the monstrosity of silence,
like the hills now overgrown with prickly oaks.