by Steve Gaines

my grandfather is both real to me
and a ghost I never knew
an old man
and the young 19th century “adventurer”
he used to tell me about
over cups of black coffee and camel cigarettes
he had to sneak out to smoke

there was a picture
that told the story…
the young footless nomad
with his cornet and the look of leaving again…

the picture sings still in my own sixty year old memory:

he stands alone
the distance wrapping him in silence
at the edge of a baseball field
circa 1910 in the Summer
a cornet in one hand
bowler hat under his left arm
a kitchen chair beside him
4th of July on the Nebraska prairie
when he was young and full of impatience…

the picture sums up infinity
time and space meeting in his eyes
squinting slightly into the Summer sun
the last echo of some song
dying on the afternoon wind

there is nothing else in the frame
no tree, no house, no other person
just the man and his horn
and his hat
and the look of tomorrow on his frown
and a kitchen chair beside him
he has just risen from

all around him July is spreading out
a long ago memory

you can taste the dust
you can hear the last note on the air…
fading
and the horizon whispering to him

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