Some barns know how to kneel;
this one does, looking over shoulder,
sighing, whispering, I’m never sure
which in these bird-gray mornings.
Oh, all they tolerate: host armies,
creeping squadrons, dragooned
columns, gnawing at time, flighty
creatures busy as town Saturdays,
ceding fathoms to dark hungers.
Their warp and twist of timbers
silent as skulls, heady lintels
and cross braces straddling chest
being crushed, sills aching to cry,
all stand their serious doubts.
They cling at selves, members
of a most immediate family
waiting for a wake to happen,
or a song of reprieve at dusk,
heaving into morning’s mirror
another night of soul survival.
It is why I love my old barn,
one like most others, falling down
slowly, taking pulse at oak wrist,
find its own bright heart of tree
cored grace in gallant crosspiece, joist,
perhaps in hoof-thinned grasping plank,
or, in summer's ever-high loft, dreams
cached away for awed awakenings,
odors barns have a right to keep.
Here, at pond-side, I look over
shoulder at a barn looking too,
back at slow, labored beginning,
feel crosscut vibrate, axes shiver
at hewing, two men’s breath rising
in a column as if one lung works,
ritual of barn raising, cutting at air.