1981: Solace, Stone
I had recently known great sorrow:
my young brother was gone. So I set out alone.
Deep in Breaux’s Gore– where I’d never been
until that morning– a headstone leaned.
It was quiet. Never such quiet.
Who can recall that marker but me?
Who is there even to know about it?
Doubtless someone. Hunters must see
the canted slab now and then,
there since 1841.
It only bore one name: John Goodridge,
wife- and childless. Water and sun
had worn its shoulders round.
Home late afternoon, near evening,
I moved from woodpile to shed and back,
less as if working than dreaming.
Scents rose in autumn dusk
then settled, odors of duff and rain.
I settled too– in the wheelbarrow’s bed,
like a chunk of oak or rather stone
that might passively ride along.
Forty years since, that I bore witness
to the marker. Even birds had gone mute.
I’d never known so complete a silence.
I wouldn’t forget it. Never.
I would never not hear that stillness again.
Our little family was set for winter.
We’d soon be soothed by the iron stove’s hum.
I turned from our surfeit of firewood,
And felt at once that a gentle something–
from above the trees, from far over our woodshed
and down through all leaf, all dust– was falling
into my bone and flesh.
I thought back on the morning, so laden with silence,
as if I could move beyond joy or sadness,
stone-quiet myself, and that meant solace.