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.