Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Five Generations

by Jim Rapp

Plowing was to start today
but now it’s snowing.
What’s to do that’s “billable”?

Three generations stay
– a council of the knowing –
and ring the kitchen table.

The youngest rises, impatient,
with coffee cup in hand,
and to the kitchen window goes.

Beyond the fence an ancient
leafless – nearly barkless – giant stands
futile guard against the blowing snow.

Four generations plowed around her,
three have shared her shade,
two have roosted in her heavy limbs,

sometimes hiding from the work to do,
hidden in shadows that she made,
indulging boyhood’s secret dreams.

“Time to take her down.”
the son remarks. “Long past time;
her wood can heat the kitchen.”

Missing granddad’s frown,
he adds, “I think today is fine;
I got a scratch that needs some itchin’.”
Granddad has not forgot the day
he watched his father slip a spade
into the ground,

pry the stubborn sod away,
slip a sapling in the space he’d made,
and press the earth back down.

Both have passed from infant impotence
to aged uselessness; tree and man de-leafed;
no longer sought nor asked for their concurrence.

Dad, observing Granddad’s countenance,
understood the pain his frown insheafed,
understood as well his son’s impatience.

“Lots of memories . . .” he said,
for granddad’s benefit, “lots of broken bones
and birds’ nests found; and shaded afternoons.”

“Time to take her down. Three years now she’s dead,”
– the son had missed his father’s tone –
“Two hours cutting and we’ll have a warmer room.”

Young Twig, entered, groggy still from sleep,
wandered to his father’s side and took his hand,
rubbing, with his other hand his drowsy eyes.

“Oh look!” he cried and pointed to the tree.
“Great Gramps is playing in the snow; see him stand
and lift his hands to catch the snowflakes flying by.”

Running to Great Gramps’ side, and climbing up
he wriggled on his lap and snuggled in his arms,
and looking up he drew the old man’s smile.

The young man shrugged, smiled, drained his coffee cup,
announcing, as he donned a coat and started for the barn,
"Worth more holding Twig, I guess, than lying in a pile."

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