January 07, 2010

The Ark Upon His Shoulders

by Forrest Gander

My husband did all this.                 We used to live
in a rambling kind of house      with gossipy verandas.
Then he bought a stove, an iron stove      with a reservoir to it.
He always insisted it was bad luck      to come in that door
and go out the other. It's bad luck      to pay back salt
if you borrow it.         To the day he died
he smelled        pulled up from the dirt. He worked
the Norfolk Southern forty years        walking on top
of freight trains. I've seen him       up there
and the wind just blowing--       you could see the wind
blowing his clothes.
                    Our second house                           he built it.
Cut me a yard broom      from dogwood bushes,
tied in three places. Hogs      squealed under the floorboards
in winter--you could see one      through the cracks.
He had something he said      to hush them.
Come up the porch steps      arms full of lightwood.
In those days      we drank good old cool water
out of the well--cool and    put some syrup in it
and stir it up      and drink it right along
with our dinner. The summers were      so hot you saw
little devils      twizzling out in front of you.
He called them      lazy jacks. It was the heat.
Listen at that bird,      he'd say. It's telling us,
Love one another. He caught      a ride back
from town with seeds and a hoop      of greasy cheese and crackers and
sardines and light      bread. He carried that umbrella
over me and I          would have his hat walking to church.
We lost the first one.        The midwife came late, she used dirt-
dauber tea for my pains.        He tried telling me
it wasn't any death owl, it was     a ordinary hoot owl outside
the house. But I tied a knot     in my sheet
so it wouldn't quiver.        I was in such trouble,
he petted me a lot. Three days       labor he attended me
how a dragonfly hovers       over water in the clear sun.
The next year we had a beautiful        girl baby, Ruthie.
Ruthie, after my mother.      Towards the end,
he was a bit thick-listed.        I never yelled though, he read my lips.
When the katydid      chirps, I miss him
saying there'll be forty days until frost.        Ones who were in trouble
they always       sought him out. Listen
at that bird, he'd say.
The things he knew        how to do he did them.

1 comment:

Aurora said...

I really love this.