Prodigal’s Return: A Poem

The little pond
back in the woods
was my Walden
before I’d ever
heard of Thoreau.

I’d wander there
to skip a rock
sit ponder
let its shimmer me.

Back home now
things are rotten.
The old feed store
the depot the cannery
even the yellow caboose
Old Man White hauled
off the tracks
its roof agape
to the sky.

Leaving daffodils
for Mama and Grandma
walked the cemetery
where all my old Sunday
School teachers lie
beside my brother
my childhood best friend
Steve, Daddy, Uncle Jack,
and the rest.

The tombstones
like books on a shelf
each one a story only
those still walking
can tell. Each a volume
of local lore in a
collection gone to seed.

I left there in tears
then found myself
walking the overgrown
path that once was
the railroad bed
back down to what
I hoped was still
my pond.

Jumped a fence
fought through
brush to a clearing
where it lay
exactly as always

chatoyant

in its ragged collar
of pines. A tree down
in a circle of sawdust
chips very recently
gnawed by beavers
and the dam
look how the creek
had worked its way
around
begun to empty out
until the beavers came
in the pond’s abandonment
to make the necessary
repairs —
their lodge a patch
that saved it all.

So I sat again
for as long as it took
for my cheeks to dry
left with a rock
in my pocket
and a lesson I think

that some things can last
yet to plug home
and hearth into water
requires a beaver’s
attention
the hard work of
teeth and heart
and yes you pick
your battles
but now’s the time
to start.

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