Forrest Gander

(1956 / Mojave Desert / United States)

The Ark Upon His Shoulders - Poem by Forrest Gander

My husband did all this.We used to live
in a rambling kind of house with gossipy verandas.
Then he bought a stove, an iron stovewith a reservoir to it.
He always insisted it was bad luckto come in that door
and go out the other. It's bad luck to pay back salt
if you borrow it.To the day he died
he smelled pulled up from the dirt. He worked
the Norfolk Southern forty years walking on top
of freight trains. I've seen him up there
and the wind just blowing--you could see the wind
blowing his clothes.
Our second househe built it.
Cut me a yard broom from dogwood bushes,
tied in three places. Hogs squealed under the floorboards
in winter--you could see onethrough the cracks.
He had something he said to hush them.
Come up the porch stepsarms full of lightwood.
In those dayswe drank good old cool water
out of the well--cool and put some syrup in it
and stir it up and drink it right along
with our dinner. The summers wereso hot you saw
little devilstwizzling out in front of you.
He called themlazy jacks. It was the heat.
Listen at that bird,he'd say. It's telling us,
Love one another. He caughta ride back
from town with seeds and a hoopof greasy cheese and crackers and
sardines and lightbread. He carried that umbrella
over me and Iwould have his hat walking to church.
We lost the first one.The midwife came late, she used dirt-
dauber tea for my pains.He tried telling me
it wasn't any death owl, it was a ordinary hoot owl outside
the house. But I tied a knot in my sheet
so it wouldn't quiver.I was in such trouble,
he petted me a lot. Three dayslabor he attended me
how a dragonfly hoversover water in the clear sun.
The next year we had a beautifulgirl baby, Ruthie.
Ruthie, after my mother. Towards the end,
he was a bit thick-listed.I never yelled though, he read my lips.
When the katydidchirps, I miss him
saying there'll be forty days until frost. Ones who were in trouble
they always sought him out. Listen
at that bird, he'd say.
The things he knew how to do he did them.


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Read poems about / on: house, husband, water, baby, wind, winter, mother, lost, death, sun, work



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003



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