Carried Water - Poem by Lonnie Hicks
I have carried water in buckets for many,
a bucket that leaked.
I have caught tears
before they fell to dead ground.
I've held hands,
cut my own hand reaching out;
felled those who would harm
and saved many who knew nothing of me;
helped the foolish,
shielded the innocents
and never gave on that it was me,
or even that I cared.
There are, too,
a few I have buried
in the dark ground
turned away and carried on-
because of the needs of living-
who all looked at me-
soon as the first dirt fell
on the casket lid.
I may never die,
that would be letting too many others down;
and I couldn't do that.
My silent face
does not reveal all this
and this is as it should be
I can't step up to demand credit.
That is not like me.
And now I stand at store counters
count my change and my memories
knowing full well that while some know
most don't and never will
nor could they
understand the silent gnawing sacrifice
that much of life
is for many of us:
wives, husbands, grandfathers and grand mothers
yellow photos on the fireplace mantel
yester years' phantoms
who built the very ground the young ones walk on
and yet they don't know.
And I am not the one to tell
because all my auidences,
the ones who might appreciate,
have all gone.
So lonely is the peaceful silence I allow my self
knowing that gratitude in the later years
means you had to have been there
and most now were not there
so it is unreasonable to expect they'd understand
those long agos
when I was young
and, of course, knew everything.
To them I sit in the rocking chair
a fixture on the porch
symbol of a long ago
but soon to be gone.
But no, that is not the way it really is.
I am their own yesterday
which I spent
they would have a tomorrow
and a silent witness to their Now
which even if unacknowledged
makes me proud.
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