An old one, to help my father find his way.
Turn left off the gravel road,
park halfway down the rutted lane
near an eroding eyesore that dares
to whisper a family once lived here.
Find the remains of a farmhouse,
barn, and silo surrounded by acres of corn
and soybeans. In the silence, only the wind
will rush out to see who has returned.
Walk around a bit. A section of the barn
sinks among pigweeds, cockleburs, thistles.
In the house where a piano once stood,
the oaken floorboards have been stripped.
It’s hard to believe, but a wooden swing
still creaks on the crumbling front porch.
Gray-white slats dangle at odd angles
from rusty chains like sturdy bones.
Go ahead, try it out. Slide down on
the scarred boards and push off
against cracked cement and dandelions
as the corroded links shriek in protest.
Sit still as the wind touches nose, mouth,
ears like a blind man searching his memory
for your name, like a holy man feeling
around for a soul to raise from the dead.
Listen to pines murmur in the north grove,
rows of cornstalks whisper down
long green tunnels. Soon, you will hear
your name echo across the barnyard.
Go now. Back to crowded kitchen tables,
slamming doors, a yard light on all night,
the scent of four o’clocks in the garden.
Close your eyes. Inhale. Exhale.
First published in Plainsongs, May 2006.