Matt Gragg Photography CC
You were the quiet one, my oldest son.
You watched, listened while others talked.
They did things you would not do unless
you were with Jon, your closest brother,
the one you talked with for hours
into the night, the two of you in your upper bunks
with a board between them as a bridge.
Even in the middle of the night,
you talked to each other in your sleep.
You and Jon would ride his brown pony
bareback along the dirt road
across the ridge, your two heads
close as you held on to each other,
always talking; I could hear your voices
from our porch, a quarter mile away.
Sometimes you would walk the ridge,
stop and talk in the middle of the road.
I still wonder what was so important
it required stopping to wave your hands
and laugh and laugh and laugh.
Now Jon is dead, and you hike lonely mountain trails,
camp by silent rivers, build your fires in forest solitude.
Is Jon in your heart, his voice in your head
as you look up at moon and stars?
Do you talk to him still?
Does he see the eagle soar through your eyes?
Is he there beside you in the dark of night,
My quiet oldest son?
Dirt to Dirt
I plan as I plant.
Blue vervain next to orange-gold Stella lilies,
Pink phlox against fluffy baby’s breath.
The garden weeds succumb to my insistent fingers;
my shovel turns soil laced with earthworm burrows,
threaded with gossamer roots.
I find treasure:
a tiny metal car missing its wheels,
a time capsule left by little boys some thirty years before
I decreed this space a garden.
Boys carved roads, built bridges,
dug holes for their dozers and trucks.
Now one lies in distant red clay soil,
outlived by iris and spirea.
What a thought, that an ordinary plant
that bloomed when he was living,
blooms again when he is gone.
All I have are memories of a little boy
browned by sun and wind,
and little toy cars in unexpected places,
left by one who played in a future garden
tended by his mother’s aging hands.
Susanna Connelly Holstein’s work has appeared in the poetry anthology Fed From the Blade (Woodland Press), Voices on Unity: Coming Together, Falling Apart and Diner Stories (Mountain State Press) and other short story anthologies and poetry journals. A traditional Appalachian storyteller and ballad singer and mother of five sons, Holstein blogs and writes from her home in rural Jackson County, West Virginia.
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