“The Past”: A Poem (Editor’s Choice, Winter 2005)

We entered the shed
where you collected the sheep
and marked them on the back, you showed us
the gates where they passed through
and the exact spot where they were weighed,
but what we saw was just
rusty machinery and metal shreds,
the holes in the corrugated roof
that curled in the sky like an open can,
you realized that we were walking on
the sheep's dung, still here, unremoved,
unbelievable, you said, look at all
that's been left of years of hard work --
with your stick you tapped
what was now dusty rose-brown turf,
our soles on the tangible, perfectly solid, layered
tight skin of your past.

Roads and houses we have left,
the day's same itineraries and landmarks,
the slab of stone where they collected your milk
now covered by nettles and weeds,
you remembered the precise
movement of your hip when you hauled
the milk churns onto the van,
we love re-describing our routes, our words
like dragonflies never leaving their pond,
our voices laces
looking for stones and hearts to tie up.

Scroll to Top