My father asks me how I stand it all,

The work, the debts, the spite. My mother talks

As though I were a famous man and yet

Unguarded somehow, too fragile to touch.

It’s their needs, not mine, that flutter here

In the questions and the anecdotes. I stare

At the rust encroaching on the walnut-branches

Or the pile of litter where the biggest pine-tree

used to stand,before my absence killed it.

their door has a vine over it; they murmur

Endearments to the animals, and cry

At small wrongs. Which is the oldest of us three?


Facts sound like charges. the least important man

Is a legend in his neighbour’s living-room,

Menacing and remarkable as the lightning

that ran from tree to tree about the house

So recently, like the shining of its ghosts,

I nod, but the names, perils, dates mean nothing.

And where that’s true, the deepest bonds are lost.

How will the vine bear this year? I feel

My heart growing till my thoughts are hoarse

And the old branches pick at the heap of leavings.

there is so much I don’t recall. They stand,

Timid, waving to watch me go, barely

Visible in the window’s copper sheen.


-Vincent Buckley


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