black walnut trees

black walnut trees

in the side yard, next to the fallow
three acre plot, black walnut trees hem
the mowed lawn. this was the greeting
when I stepped outside to smoke,
back when I stayed there, and you, still
asleep, missed the mournful
geese calling directions to each other,
the starlings sniping with the grackles
over the seed by the kitchen window.
now you stay in the house alone,
the dining room and living room curtained off
and the upstairs door closed for winter.
when I was young, I went up the narrow
tipping steps to my grandparent’s second floor,
and there found boxes of wire coat hangers and cereal,
cartons of marboros and wigs: ghosts
from the Depression, when you saved in batches.
My grandma scolded me
for a few hours, on and off, coming back to it
every few minutes, for throwing away an ice cream cone
because I wasn’t hungry anymore. For her, you eat
for later, when there isn’t. Today you watch House,
and NCIS, into the evening, and speak only to the dog,
and I think of those difficult days
you never experienced, and how they were your imprint
anyway. The way you are reserved
only makes sense if you are saving
words like pennies in a mayonnaise jar. We will have a long talk
sometime when it is time to roll them neatly in paper
to go to the bank, until we give them to a teller,
without saying anything at all. Outside,
the black walnuts will hit the ground
with a sound like “dhook…” We will wheelbarrow them
into the basement to dry the green
thick shells around the walnuts, until
we learn together how to harvest them.


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