Header image  
    Table of Contents
Joseph Powell


The land shapes the stride
and the mind finds its rhythm.
An owl brought back
my father’s story, out checking
the cattle’s water, late grass.
He’s a teenager with a whip
and his uncle’s buggy
breathing frost in his hurry
to get home along this trail
my son and I walk
in the November dusk.
My father’s father long since gone,
his uncle yet to die in his bed,
he in his, a memory among many
he’s told about this place
where he belonged,
a blanket over their knees,
the intimate sounds of leather,
the strain and release of the yoke,
the warm, sufficient smell of horses,
his uncle’s pipe, small talk,
rhythmic clopping like drumbeats
underneath a song.
Home was a fire burning,
his aunt cooking in the kitchen.
My own son grows distant
and quarrelsome, lags behind,
directing the movie in his head,
spinning the tale of himself,
among muscled giants, swinging swords,
discovering rocks in a croc-infested world.
Time after time, an owl
casts its eerie net into the dark.

Except what I’ve read
through footprints glazed in ice,
the past is irretrievable.
As I wait for my son to catch up,
the history in my hands
picks a foxtail and shreds it.

What is the story of this hour,
hours and hours hence,
when my ghost takes him out
to walk the trail we’ve walked before,
trees leafless, the afternoon turning cold?
Will the blown dead rise, fighting again,
street holes healing behind them?
Along this ridgetop path
in the frosted starlight,
what will shape his stride,
what hearth await him
as the solitary owl calls?