The Bowens are at home, but they don’t hear me.
Across the yard their massive barn waits, empty.
A square of shadow: the great open door.
I step inside. The swing’s still hanging there;
and in the drizzly, drowsy afternoon
this cloudy August Sunday I sit down,
ush off, am launched out toward the soaking green,
then back, then forward: lawn to barn to lawn.
Five decades’ distillation, like a dream:
nights in the loft; Paul walking on that beam;
the mounds of ripe manure and moldy hay,
the swing how many children till today
swung and still swing on. . . . Two bright windows frame
Ralph and Sue, who both look much the same
as when half a century ago I saw
them first. He’s rocking, reading, back to me,
lamplight glancing off his snowy hair;
she’s talking on the phone in a blue chair,
both fixed on other times and places, drawn
separately away from the routine
where, waist-deep, neck-deep, both of them are wading
along a track the years keep on eroding,
just as on my own parallel path I
move forward, sink down simultaneously.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 Number 2, on page 27
Copyright © 2022 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com