“Still Life,” by Paul Cézanne, oil on canvas, 1890.

by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Remember that time your dog died and I didn’t tell you for months
because you had deployed and George Bush was shouting,
Bring it on and we were all thinking that Korea was fixing to blow.
But when I emailed to say we were headed for West Virginia,
you fired back, Mom, where is Annie? and I had to say she was hit by a car.
I sent brownies loaded with black walnuts from the old home place.

Or when you called me from Iraq asking me to
talk to people about donating shoes and I told you it was hopeless
because of the Tsunami, everyone was already donating.
You said Hell with that and your unit threw in their paychecks and bought
all those families just outside Fallujah new shoes off the Internet.
I made two hundred popcorn balls wrapped in wax paper.

Or that February you came home for R&R, so sad and sick.
I baked your favorite, meatloaf, and you said you couldn’t possibly,
but I gave you doe-eyes so you ate and threw up all night,
into the next day, saying over and over Sweet Jesus,
please, make it stop and I knew you weren’t talking about the meatloaf.

Or the day after Sergeant Crabtree went to Vegas and blew
his head off in the hotel bathroom, while here at home your
best friend got arrested for selling narcotics and you said neither one of them
needed to and maybe wouldn’t have if you’d been there. So I shipped
molasses cookies thick with Crisco frosting, all the way to Kandahar.

Or the afternoon your farm boy fingers tried to clamp the artery
on that precious baby girl, near the valley of Arghandab,
while her father screamed for Allah and blood soaked your uniform
when you hugged her to you as she passed.
I drenched that fruitcake in brandy for three days.

But mostly it was the night your daughter was born and we
locked eyes across the birthing room. I thought to myself,
skillet-fried chicken with candied sweet potatoes, fried okra,
lima beans with bacon, cornbread and aunt Margaret’s hot fudge cake.
We used the good dishes and grandpa Oris said the blessing.

“Serving” originally appeared in Still: The Journal.

omega man

Kari Gunter-Seymour’s chapbook Serving was chosen runner up in the 2016 Yellow Chair Review Annual Chapbook Contest and nominated for an Ohioana Award. Her poems can be found in Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, Stirring, and on her website karigunterseymourpoet.com. She is an Instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and the Poet Laureate for Athens, Ohio.