Peace Country

 

Nearly May and snow

holding to the north side of the barn, grass

sodden with melt, her boots soaked through to bone.

And beside, an open shed tumbling out grey wood,

and the drowning-pond’s treacherous ice

covering its own darkness

below the vista of budded birch and fir, the barn windows

spilling their damp breath.

In the distance the coal cars humped down the tracks

where the land had been slashed and sutured, a wound

that scared her more because she knew it was her life

refusing to heal. She’d thought finding him would be enough,

enough to declare she was his daughter, meaning

acceptance, a fact.

But there was more she’d have to prove, and lay

on her back in the hay, inhaling its hay smell

while swallows mudded the walls of their houses

in expectation for the life to break open,

the small hard beaks’ relentless tapping.

 

And she reckoned he thought in lamplit evenings how

a daughter was burden, a burlapped load. In a broken

piece of mirror she saw a torn girl,

a mustang without brand. To belong —

the age in him a solid thing, like wood, his years

heavy enough to lean on, but it might turn out

he’d drop her out back like an old sofa,

a life instantly simpler for the act, she pondered

while her fingers combed her hair like a mane.

She had chosen him, and waited.

 

A heart’s all creaking doors and peeling paint

and rusted latches, windows staring in stunned wonder.

She’d do what she could — forgive herself her poverty

and knock, quiet, on his rattling door, listening

for his breathing inside, his hands in his pockets,

and behind her the pond like a moon fallen to the grass

and Spring working its slow determined will.