Voices on the Wind
by Mark Vogel
Entrenched in his porch recliner he looked down
the valley as the guardian, the first scout,
the keeper of the road surrounded by
his handiworkóbird feeders cut from milk cartons,
split and stacked wood ready for the fire,
saved seed varieties in jars ready to marry dirt.
With his restless plans, he was ready:
Got six hundred strawberries you can
dig come spring. He remembered times
to collect cressy greens and huckleberries/
witch hazel leaves and walnuts,
as if he was born flannel dressed for work,
with cloddy shoes and ancient hat,
up since five with tools in hand moving,
seeking jobs to be done on a restless road.
O hell, like a dark November cloud
announcing winter, nothing is balanced
when loving Roy has stumbled away,
finally unable to talk, despite a thousand
stories of what was. Maddening stark truth
that he died in breezy morning, for what will happen
to the raspberries and apple trees/the currants
just growing mature/the lime-green
water cress when no one notices?
Who will fight weeds, and who but Roy
in rich July will see the red salamander
in the rose quartz rich creek, or know cowbirds
as pesky friends who eat his blueberries?
Who with endless patience will out wait the heron?
What neighbor will replace the quiet coda
when a visit ends: come back down, now silenced.
Though I still feel him shuffling this way,
smiling, his absence is palpable presence/
as real as a boulder carried in the stream,
or his garden still growing, though
the caretaker has disappeared.