“Go! Go Fast! Hide Them!” – My Father’s Guns

About eight months ago, my granddaughter, Mara, was quite interested in family history and asked for more details. I said I would write but just couldn’t seem to do it.

Fast forward to two weeks ago and I go to a poetry reading–mostly new writers, talking about their lives, easy to understand and with no rhyming.

At the reception, I ask how they do it. “It just comes,” they say.  Hard for me to imagine.

Then one woman suggests I make it like I’m writing a letter to someone. I think of my granddaughter. The next morning I wake up thinking in poetry phrases about my father’s guns.  Later in the day it all came out, fully-formed.

*******************

My father had three guns. Cold, hard revolvers all.
Passed from his grandfather, a policeman.
They were always around, teamed with ammunition.
We brothers learned to shoot them all.
It was no big deal, all boys talked of guns in the forties.

John Maguire, author, at the time ot this poem's setting.

John Maguire, author, at the time ot this poem’s setting.

Years later, after too much alcohol and failed rehab, things did not bode well for my father….or for the rest of us.

Late one night I’m talking to the priest of other things.
I stand to leave, his casual question: “How’s your dad?”
Not so good. I say. He’s drinking heavy again, accusing again, hit me a good one for no good reason.
And I’m wondering about the guns.
“The guns?” he questions, his eyes snapping, his voice hard.
Is there ammunition he asks?
Yes, I say.
“Go” he says, “Go fast, hide them!”
He’ll be angry, I say.
“Have him call me,” he says.
“Go, go fast, hide them!”

I drive fast, feeling now the urgent need to hide them.
And then…a red flashing light and the officer’s question: “Why so fast son?”
I blurt it out – the alcohol, the illness….and the guns.
He blinks, startled!
Our eyes are locked. Will he believe me?
But resolution is in my heart……and then…. on his face!
He waves me on! “Go, go fast, hide them!”

I race away, reach home, and hide them.
Next day my father asks: “Where’s my guns?”
I stand to face him, eye to eye, and say: “The priest said to hide them, talk to him.”
Our eyes are locked, his look strange, not angry.
Is he proud of me? or…. is it relief?
Was there a gun option on the table?
Later he chose another path, and walked away, never seen again.

My father had three guns. Cold, hard revolvers all.
No one died from my father’s guns,
but my father died from his alcohol.

*******************

Dedicated to my granddaughter Mara-who asked. 

My father

My father

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5 Responses to “Go! Go Fast! Hide Them!” – My Father’s Guns

  1. Jenny Stanczyk says:

    Thanks Uncle John, It was beautifully written.

  2. Joan Maguire says:

    I’m so proud of you John.
    Your poem took me back.I know this wasn’t easy. It takes courage to let the memories and feelings flow. In my experience writing makes me own them and keeps me honest. It takes even more to share them.
    I’m not there yet.
    I hope you’ll keep writing.

    • John says:

      Actually Joan, it wasn’t hard at all. It was very emotional but it was easy. And the realization that it could think in a different way about these past events and had a knack (at least to me!) for writing about them in poetry form was truly amazing. Sort of a silver lining!

  3. Larry says:

    Yes, John, that was the Edison Hotel. I had taken the uniform down there with some other stuff–we had the same sized shoes. He had a deal with that Mrs. Kelly on the desk, to do some clean-up for part of the rent and to, I’m sure, regale all with his tales.
    Lar

    • John says:

      A good word – regale! says a lot about him. I wonder what his spirit is doing now. Can’t tell you how much I’ve gained and cherished in our late night talks about him. Thanks again!