The hill-hung house wakes to another day.
Behind it, up the mountainside I’ve climbed,
I stand inside an early-morning cloud
that waits for the rising sun to wipe it out.
The chiggers waiting in the Queen Anne’s Lace,
the ticks in the path, the web across my face,
and the thorns in every locust tree I touch
persuade me I have not changed much coming home.
But I who have returned am other than
the molecules I was when I ran down
the mountain to the college and the sea.
The flaking house paint shows me chalky grey
foundation boards the garden snails have slimed.
Beneath the porch where once a possum cowered
and played it died each time I’d jump or shout,
I see the wagon that we used to race
and I do my very best but still can’t trace
my old acquaintances. They used to matter much,
I tell myself, and scratch names in the loam
that covers where, back then, a small brook ran
from just above the house down through the town
in search of deeper waters, just like me.
I retreat a final time back to The Farm.
I cross the creek down where the real road ends.
I walk from there, into the ever woods.
I ford the creek twice more and see the sun.
It cooks the dew from what had been the orchard.
The path is steeper than I had remembered.
A blacksnake on an overhanging rock
conceals her rapt astonishment if any.
Back into the dark forest. Does it end?
I work to think of nothing but I remember:
projects well begun but then abandoned,
salt traces on the cheek of one I loved.
The sun again. I step into the clearing
remembering it was here I learned to ride
with hope and halter, quirt and bit forbidden.
I used a blanket for a saddle on hot days.
Emotions I thought atrophied propel me
uphill to where the cabin’s rough-plank porch
was the perch I launched myself from in the dawn
before walking through the weeds that wet bare feet
to wade the creek and watch for rainbow trout
that faced upstream below the larger rocks.
On nearing, I see saplings, dirt, and weeds.
The cabin I planned to move into is gone.