Links of Ladder by Frederick Wilbur

Links of Ladder


Higher than a hired man’s head,
a chain bubbles from the tree’s heart
and falling thirteen links, dares
a boy’s reaching, his pretending—
its original purpose unknown.
It is not a hanging tree or surveyor’s
witness, but a yard-oak to dream under.
The chain was left there in a fork
by heart attack or by forgotten convenience,
has provoked the grain to snarl
and restless, has rubbed a triangle,
an arrow, in the gray bark. He sees
the ladder he must climb to know
how chance and choice can be useful.


After the Funeral


Hands high on the steering wheel, white headlights
tunnel through darkness like moles looking for home.
We drive the unfamiliar, swerving for eyeshine
the way people dodge pauses in conversation.

His friends’ faces were ivory in formal black,
with no teasing trace of color, no news, no
humorous tale that would bring him back to us.
His girlfriend was red-faced, jealous of their simplicity.

My wife and I draw words from the fifty mile silence,
place them between us on the dashboard
and we build a small biography there, vulnerable,
with no shock value to its implications.

Interrogative miles answer nothing,
excuses collapse like bottom land
chewed away by flood waters.
Our son, like promises for old age, is gone,

his poems forever unfinished, lost friends
lost, the knock unopened. It will be years
we write valedictions in cursive,
the black flow will relieve the ache of white pages,

like the escape route the Navajo
weave into their blankets for good measure.

Rodney Torrenson
Frederick Wilbur was brought up, and still lives in, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, so he relies on imagery derived from the natural landscape to explore human relationships. He has been an architectural woodcarver for over 35 years and has written numerous articles and three books on the subject. His poetry has appeared in Shenandoah, Green Mountains Review, The Lyric, The South Carolina Review, Southern Poetry Review, New Virginia Review, and Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review.

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