It opened the way
from our farm to town,
a road between two fences.
People weave paths in a net
to catch distances and tie
them together, a way to
the outside and make us
travelers with a pocketful
Like a hunchback with a limp
and a hitch we troubled our way
home in axle-deep mud, horse-high
drifts, a smother of dust,
in wagons and sleighs with logs,
coal, flour, sugar, salt
(barrels of salt, 100 pounds of flour),
with the tramp of cattle and hogs
on the way to the butcher, eggs
for the grocer, the road heard
the doctor’s wild team at midnight
and the pad pad of children’s feet
indentured in the country school
to teachers with more will than knowledge.
Now the road threads the country
with a carpet of asphalt and the
snowplow grunts a wide track, blind
to the ghosts of straining men and horses.
One winter each evening I ran
the distance from high school
to warm-lighted supper table.
Tracks and trails lie mixed, my fold,
neighbors, horse buyers, cattle traders,
lightning rod salesmen and the
dust-blind mailman and his load.
Wagons, buggies, sleighs entombed
in museums of memory along with
drained sloughs, sprayed pussy willows,
and no wild flag decorates the tile’s mouth.
No, the husking pegs are hung up
and the lanterns blown out.
A man with years in his eyes wonders
if life is only the wearing out
of boot soles.