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.
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