Sunday, July 21, 2013

A poem for Grandpap Dick Rankin

A poem about my great great grandfather, from things my father told me. Of course, my father was only six when his great grandfather died.  And my father passed away over 30 years ago. It all leaves much to the imagination to recreate (i.e., he probably made shit up, and I am probably making some shit up too!).

Grandpap Rankin

First of all, thank you for visiting the cemetery
every now and then, and cleaning the graves

of the old folks.  New generations have forgotten,
but they wouldn’t be, now, if we had not been then –

When I was barely a boy, I run off with rebel soldiers,
did odd jobs, cooked for them, tended to the horses.

None of us farmers knew that much about war.
Legend is true, I returned to Browns Summit with a box full

of Confederate money.  Warn’t no count, no way.
Rebel soldiers give it to me. I swear.  It was my pay.

Buried that box in a tobacco field in Jackson after the war,
same field where I buried mason jars of moonshine I made,

to keep it cool and to hide it from the revenuers.
Cool on a summer day.  Best in Guilford County,

the white folks used to say. The war freed the slaves, or
so they said.  I didn’t know much about politics, still don't,

or taking sides, or fighting, but I did know we had a good master,
a kind, Christian man.  Now your daddy and his sister were just children

when I transferred to the next world.  But I watched them grow up and
tried to take care of them, best I could.  It ain’t easy

moving back and forth between worlds.  And yes, I made
a bit of moonshine in my day.  Drank a little, too,

more towards the end.  Best in Guilford County.
Hid it from the revenuers.  Cool on a hot summer day.

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