From many hard workdays in the fields,
many passages through the woods,
many mornings on the river, lifting
hooked lines out of the dark,
from many nightfalls, many dawns,
on the ridgetops and the creek road,
as upright as a tree, as freely standing,
Arthur Rowanberry comes in his old age
into the care of doctors, into the prison
of technical mercy, disease
and heretic skill making their way
in his body, hungry invaders fighting
for claims in that dark homeland,
strangers touching him, calling his name,
and so he lies down at last
in a bare room far from home.
And we who know him come
from the places he knew us in, and stand
by his bed, and speak. He smiles
and greets us from another time.
We stand around him like a grove,
a moment’s shelter, old neighborhood
remade in that alien place. But the time
we stand in is not his time.
He is off in the places of his life,
now only places in his mind,
doing what he did in them when they were
the world’s places, and he the world’s man:
cutting the winter wood, pilling the brush,
fixing the fences, mending the roofs,
caring for the crops under the long sun,
loading up the wagon, heading home.