Those Who Went Before

The soil is dry, dusty, tan silt that parts easily at the insistence of my hoe.

With each stroke I carve a straight-line row, two inches deep,

that will receive the bean and corn seeds I sow. I am looking,

searching, for something else in this garden, something older

than these seeds, than me, than the trees that cast a thin Spring shade.

Once, thirty years ago, my hoe unearthed an arrowhead here,

black Kanawha flint I later learned, and perfectly formed.

It was not the first to come to the light in this place I call home,

this acreage that once was pasture for sheep, and before that grew wheat

and corn that our neighbors hoed when they were young boys. Now

those men are old, some of them passed on to the promised garden

and I am here with my hoe, digging in this same earth and looking,

as they did, for signs of those who went before.

A piece of sandstone heaves from the soil, a sign, I was told,

that once this land was on fire, scorched by flames so hot

the very stones were seared. Whether this be truth or not

I cannot tell, but I picture the fire and the smoking rocks

as my hoe digs again into the dirt.

I finish, wiping sweat from my face even though

this day is too cool for mid-May and tonight there may be frost

in low-lying regions. Here,

on this hill where only one family before me

was known to have a dwelling, there will be no frost tonight.

We will light a fire on the patio and gaze into its red heart,

and we will feel the eyes, hear the hard-soled feet in soft moccassins

slip by us in the gloaming, and the call of the owl will echo

against hills that remember the song

of those who went before.

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About grannysu

storyteller, writer, poet, gardener, countrywoman
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