Grandfather's Souvenirs of War
by Walt McDonald

    Bring down the gong, curved handles hammered in,
    thin bronze the shape of shields.
    Grandfather beat that gong on the porch
    to say I'm home, dusting his Stetson and chaps,
    kicking caked mud off his boots

    before he unhooked his spurs.
    The oldest boy, my father chose the bronze,
    gave Uncle Ed the brass. This month,
    after another probate, came my turn to choose.
    I wondered why Father hauled the gong

    to his attic, his dad's old flags and medals,
    souvenirs of trench warfare and France.
    A wonder he didn't haul them to the dump
    or burn them, who hated war and scoffed
    at all songs patriotic. He hated noise,

    but oddly the gong was dusted,
    polished, when we found it days ago.
    My father worshipped that old man.
    All of Grandfather's boots were there,
    horse blankets and saddles heaped to the ceiling,

    his leather vests and Stetsons, a history
    of ranching on the plains. And stored in a cabinet,
    Grandfather's rifles, bores freshly oiled,
    the smell on Father's hands that day he fell
    and we found him by the ladder on his back.

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