Still Life with Dead Birds by Christoffel van den Berghe

  My Father’s Gun Cabinet    

November came and though it was Thanksgiving time

the house was busy with the start of duck hunting season. 

Decoys were taken from the shelf and cleaned. 

Camouflage shirts and pants were washed and dried.

Hunting boots were pulled from the back of closets and spider

webs wiped off. Duck calls pierced the air with loud quacks.

The gun cabinet stood against the living room wall, tall and

solid, oak stained medium brown, with a safe-tempered

glass door and fully locking handle. Leaning against

the felt-lined barrel rest were five guns, two 12-gauge shot guns

two double-barrel shotguns and a rifle, stock and trigger

facing outward, lined up like good little soldiers.

From the cabinet the guns were retrieved and the kitchen table

became a palette of oil cans, solvents, rags, paper towels

an Allen wrench, a cleaning rod and scattered gun parts.

Then my father and brothers were gone.

For three days the house was quiet until they returned

and the back-porch picnic table became a morgue of pin tails

canvasbacks, gadwalls, widgeons, buffleheads, redheads.

For days the house smelled of feathers and death.