Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HOMECOMING, by HAYDEN CARRUTH

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HOMECOMING, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A road that had wound us 20,000 miles
Last Line: After all the bell in the garden is silent
Subject(s): Fruit; Nuts & Nutting

A road that had wound us 20,000 miles
stops, with a kind of suddenness, at home.

At home and in midsummer. The snow has gone.
July murmurs its dark momentous tones.

The butternut is heavy, heavy the fruit
hung like genitals under the pleated leaves.

Weeds (we call them), marguerite and gromwell
and Queen Anne's lace, stand tall in the garden,

and one last foxglove stands among them, with one
magenta cloche hung darkly among the lace.

It does not move in the dark unmoving air
yet we almost hear its tolling. Knell on knell

broaden across the haze of afternoon,
conscious indecencies of ceremonious sorrow.

Two deaths, two abstractions. Our absence
was spooked somehow; changes in spite of us

done in the part of the world we had left locked
in safety. One was a favorite pine and the other

was old Steve Washer. The pine stood shining
in snow when we last saw it, but the rust

took it, and now even in death it is beautiful,
a russet tree in the dark woods. Eventually

its use will serve our fire; we cannot mourn it long.
But Mr. Washer's dying was not like this.

It has no beauty, no usefulness, it is
ugly and stupid, nothing but stupid. It hurts us.

Eighty-five years is long enough to live,
people say; and he was vigorous to the end.

And truly he was, as these said things are true
and good and wise, and in no way disguises,

since the very ones who say them shake their heads
over their own indecent and ceremonious words.

Mr. Washer was a free-born man
who in the toil of self-creation probably wished

he wasn't often enough, and so was like us all;
his loss, as ours will be, is irreplaceable.

That is understood. The man is gone. And then . . .
the type is almost gone, the tough hardminded Yankee

who loved John Locke and let John Bunyan go.
Mr. Washer was the only person who ever respected

our privacy, not partly, not indifferently, but absolutely;
yet was eager to share if asked, our labour or luck

as our need demanded. He was a small man, and lean;
weighed 130 in his prime and somewhat less

toward the end, but could heap grain sacks in the loft
faster than the mill boys could heave them up,

and could walk switchback behind his team all day
in the high fields. He was doing it last July.

Mr. Washer is gone, and in any useful sense
his virtues are gone with him. Our absence

has returned to absence. We walk in our high grass,
restless and petulant among weeds and spiderwebs.

The day is quiet, dark, and hot, but it will not rain.
After all the bell in the garden is silent.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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