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Keep your face to the sunshine
and shadows will fall behind you. -- Walt Whitman

The Old Man from Blackberry Hill Farm by Tom Sheehan

He lived on the edge of the mountain, my grandfather the smoker,

and sometimes he’d stay until Saturday burned down and ashed,

the rapping of his pipe against the arm of a chair echoing for days

after he’d go a sail down the long curve of the field. At our house

his pipe was alive, it made rooms move, shifting sideways, leaning

like spears, the smoke like sheets seen through. Ceilings came down

on him and lifted away on anyone’s breath, someone calling on him,

an old ice cutter, boots knee-high, scars deep as bones allowed, often

a thread still burned in the flesh of memory, as if that cut had a face.

They’d talk about all-day on the ice, saws serious as pistons, singing,

carving blocks out of the pond we swam in long before August let go,

his pipe and horses’ breaths tiering their gray-white differences, hawks

peaking on slow-motion thermals. They’d talk of bitter cold as if it was

a friend they’d put up with for the good of all concerned, or a fool wind

coming off the pond’s hind quarters the way a girl held on once, and fires

they’d light right out on the ice, like a good friend ought to be talked of.

Crushed ice, shavings thick as orange puree, pieces promising quick liquid,

sloshed underfoot. Horses, looming out of an Arabian skyline, great as all

outdoors, slid the pond under iron shoes enough to sink any man in all that

variety of water, their chains and shackles sure signs of going down good

and for the count, bubbles being the last sign you’d ever see, lots of them,

lots of old men, lots of old horses, eternal as huge blocks of ice, as much

long spirit as any of that clan my grandfather the smoker was part of.

The Linnets Wings