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

pulled off the track

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

graveyard 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 all my tears 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.