The Returning


As I walked the dusty country
road I saw a herd of puffy
sheep with their noses to the
ground. I saw grapes shriveling
on the vine behind a broken
timber fence. I saw yellow
fields of mustard with a few
scattered boulders bleached
by the sun. The day had been
hot, so hot, and the walk so long
that sweat was dripping from
the brim of my hat. Shame is another
kind of heat she taught me well.
And when she smiled at her mother’s
funeral I knew the earth didn’t care
who was buried in it’s breast.
I saw a couple of mockingbirds
harassing a crow whose casual
escape only seemed to enrage
them more. A lone obese cow with
skinny legs stared at me with
still, empty eyes. The air
was stirred and cooled with
the approach of an ominous
thunderhead whose shadow trailed
along beside me as I strode.
I came to the crossroad and stopped
to study the signs which looked
exactly as I remembered them,
white letters on blue. I thought
of blood dripping on white tile
and a cold, wet shivering child,
and I stopped breathing. Are clouds
silent witnesses to our stories?
Do they taste our hearts with
their tears? Far off I see the strand
of slender, towering cypress in
whose midst I once found peace.
Beyond it, barely visible past
the darkened sky, is the town
where we both were born, where now
her body waits. I wonder what I’ll feel
and if it will be my turn to smile.

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