Website exclusive: this short prose poem consists of four roughly-metered sections corresponding to the seasons and inspired by my admiration for the sonnets of E.A. Robinson.
He came down the mountain, the girl on his back—his daughter, we said, for she looked so young—and him stooped and shuffling, hobbling along, grown brittle with years and palsied with lack. None would shelter him though he walked for miles down streets of huddling shacks and passed beyond the smokeless stacks of the brick factory. He never talked. The spring snow flew, more gray than white, then red the weeds in which he lay. He smiled, dead, and on his chest we saw those poppies laid. The girl? Of her we had no sight but heard (we thought) a crying child, and flowers filled the tracks she made.
White violets first, then lilies, returning of a year, while roundabout cedars twisted and spread like moth-wings laced to roof over the heads of girls who went to pick the blossoms there. Among them was my youngest Anne and Rose her older sister: she passed beyond the summer grove and met the boy who went unclothed and laughing chased him through the trees. When Anne came back, she was alone and begged for me to rise and go with her before the dusk-light died. We fled outside down dusty roads and found Rose where the lilies grow, asleep, but with such dreams behind her eyes.
The leaves were on the ground. He knocked and set the dogs to barking and sent me downstairs in my stockings to crack the door, to peer outside. His talk was soft and smooth and fine as was his coat of rabbit’s fur, his gray silk suit and tie, but his hair was black and tangled, dry, and I knew what he’d come back for. They wed before the roaring hearth with Rose dressed up as for a death and glowing like the sun through rain. Her moaning woke me in the dark. She screamed, it seemed, and stole my breath, as at her birthing years ago, and all her mother’s pain.
Her light we glimpsed that night alone though white as snow sufficed to burn the soul from him who had returned and scorch the marrow in his bones. Or so we said, for such the change we saw in him as winter fell and bent him fast so none could tell the weight he wore about him like great age. Then came the New Year and the storm when snowfall swam out of the trees and breached the ground in fountains as they left. I listened to their steps resound, the echoes breaking east from town and making for the mountain.