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Visiting Home

Your house burned yesterday.  Not

to the ground, not in consuming

flames, as you might imagine—

it smoldered in the walls.  A pine tree 

downed the power lines.  Electrical surges.

Firemen had to tear down the bookshelves,

insulation, floorboards older than you

would be by now.  Everything charred

in that corner you filled for fifty years,

with your half-glasses and manuscripts.

It’s rented now; they’d moved out all your

things, so none of that burned.  They keep saying

it would have been better had the house burned

to the ground.  Aunt Betsy spoke of ghosts.

Are you there now? 

(Funny, really.  

As if anyone knew.)

And now the smell of smoke,

the water-damage.  Pine-boards lying

slant-wise in the wreckage.  Mom still 

tells of waiting for the cows to cross,

and riding her bike to get milk 

at the Lewis farm.  The pines 

you planted together grow in rows

that begin to lean inward, undisciplined.

You’re here, as I drive by miles of toppled 

stone walls and lost foundations along the Taconic, 

buried in maples.

Which is not to say 

I’m homesick, exactly, though I want 

to dig into the loam of your garden.  A kind

of violence necessary for propagation.

Some trees need a fire to sprout.

Posted 12/12/14
This poem originally appeared in Harpur Palate. Vol. 8, Issue 1, Summer 2008.
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