By Jennifer C. Grant
for Malcolm Muggeridge
I stepped down from the train,
saw you there, old man, bent
next to the tudor station, smiling
and waving to me over the steering wheel.
Your aged blue eyes
saw us through the maze of roads
walled by high corn and close trees, roads
which branch away from the train
station to the cottage, to your wife’s eyes
and worn, wrinkled skin. Her back bent
over the low table. You turn the wheel
and press the horn, she’s smiling,
face tilted up to the window. I smiled
as we chose sticks to sturdy our walk on dirt roads
that circle your farm…the windmill’s wheel
spinning in the moving air, the train’s
cry; muted by distance and wind-bent
corn. Shaded by silk, its small yellow eyes.
I could see in your eyes
knowledge that your days are bent
around time, its roads
winding and short, brief as the call of the train,
disappearing with the double-drum beat of its wheels.
A bird perched on the tractor wheel.
Its tiny black eyes
alert and trained
to see the smiling
Orange cat. Wings spread over the road
in beating flight. I’m bent
on being like you in age, bent
on sitting visitors beside the wheel,
driving them to strawberry sandwiches and my roads
to support their journey. Meeting eyes.
I wish to be smiling
as I collect them at the train.
Your brows are bent now, and in your eyes
images spin like a wheel. You’re smiling
out at the roads, not hearing the cry of the train.
(First published The Southeast Review and in the book Poems for a Good and Happy Life [Gramercy, 1997.])