We were living not so far inland as now.
The housing was rundown but plentiful.
Jobs were only beginning to grow scarce.
The new war arrived in the wake of the old.
Poor men poled rafts along Mill Run River.
Returning home the current lay behind.
I do not know how they could keep going.
It took a week to walk to where they lived.
There we found a woman who was dying.
It seemed to her she worked from dawn to dawn.
Her man found money when leaves blew away.
When coins weighed his pockets he left her home.
They were no family, there was no child.
Townspeople sneered when they saw him coming.
Once his supplies were aboard the raft,
he bought a jug of cheap wine to drink down.
He passed the night with a wretched woman
who shared what he had in exchange for warmth.
You remember as well as I our work
was listening. The silence came later
once we heard them out. Then we walked the week
back home. After the woman died he came
here to haunt the indignant town. He walked
until he fell silent where his words were.
Later I remembered all he said once
remembering his youth in a city
where he sat on a stoop drinking Paisano,
eating sourdough, attending to strangers
he put in books no one but his love read.
She believed in him. She kept him alive.
(12 January 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander