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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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CONVERSATION

 

Last night I reminded you of a time nearly forty years ago

when I first knew you.

Four days into May the tree between the street and my apartment

had no leaves – as if it were still mid-winter.

Seated in a webbed lounge chair, you cradled me,

held me as if I were one of your children.

 

The soft, warm night and star-filled sky belied

the wounded and four who died that day. 

And those of us unhurt—─

many had learned the terror our fathers’ land could be.

                                                                                                (How could my father,

a surgeon, the Great War’s veteran

snarl, “They should have shot them all”

to a daughter who called home to say that she was safe?)

 

Throughout that night you stroked my hair

and held me curled into your shoulder.

As I absorbed your comfort’s consolation,

 the maple unfurled its leaves,

and when you left at morning,

the tree was in full leaf.

 

In later years, long after you had gone,

I gauged the early coming

or tardiness of spring

by whether that tree had leaves or not

on the morning of the fifth of May.

Seeing it leafed out in spring would say to me,

“Somewhere is comfort, for once it found me here;

somewhere solace comes to someone;

somewhere it will find me once again.”

 

When the city felled the tree for interference

with its power lines,

I grieved for my harbinger, the living thing

that linked me to the shelter of your shoulder.

 

It is much too early now for trees to bring forth leaves,

but last night a short way from that apartment,

a white haired man and a little woman

with age lines in her face sat talking.

  Late into the night,

they looked those truths they could not say,

taking comfort in mere conversation.

 

And now, this morning, you have gone,

  but snow drops bloom by the dogwood tree, and

tiny blue squill peek around the back porch step.

Once more there has been consolation.

 Once again,

the comfort of the spring is you.


—─Terry W. Ford