The year before last a late frost
Blackened the apple blossoms and the crop
Was lost. Last year the trees
Made up the loss, so much fruit the
Branches broke from the weight.
Yesterday I cut the limbs, hanging
Half broken from the trunk, and this evening
I piled them up
Finally, with chores somewhat done,
I sat down to watch the fire
And bid the various troubles depart,
Pleasured in a moment alone, with
And that was of Pete.
In the story my dad told, my great grandmother
Lucy (who smoked a pipe) told him, when he took
Their horses to hide in the knobs, to give the horses up
If he was found out. To this Pete was said to reply,
“They’ll get them horses when Pete’s dead.”
Was this true? And was it said out of loyalty to
The woman who’d
Taken, whether in rescue or bondage, his
Birth mother’s place? Or was it just a tale,
Made up of things the teller wanted told?
He was 26 then.
The historians are no help. One says that
He didn’t know how the earth was made, or how human life began.
One says his soul was saved, another denies it.
One says he would have known as little about
The world as an animal knows.
I sense him standing just outside the present flame,
As sleek and strong as a painter (as panthers hereabouts are
Called) ~ his thought, since I must invent it,
Is poised with animal elegance. Histories, mythologies,
Mean nothing to him. The pads of his feet press
Into the spring soil exactly as mine do, pulling the furrow
Ridge in over rows
of onions, potatoes, peas.
The same chorus of frogs chimes in the bottoms, the sweet
Wild plum casts its love into the breeze, and the thin
Peal of the meadow-lark gives way to twilight,
And fire of apple wood, burning the past
Which was too much, too little
Counted year by year; but grand, exquisite beyond
Telling, in the endless time of planting