Now I praise all leaning picket fences
with at least one spoke missing
all trailers zoned to the fringes of town
all rutted dirtroads all farmhouses morphed to
rooming houses with signs plastered
in the entranceway, all shabby RV’s
that someone is obviously living in
and the woodstove the chamberpot the nine-foot hand-dug well
and all my memories of rural life
only the memories aren’t shabby
but bright with autumn reds
radiant with yellows and sunset pinks.
Oh I know I’m glorifying that time:
We got ready for bed at the local coffeeshop
where the water was running and warm
(we said elegantly, which restaurant shall we
get ready for bed in tonight?)
and we lugged water bottles in the car
thinking of all the people who lugged water without cars.
We tried putting the water bottles on our heads like in Africa
and collapsed laughing,
then we put them on yokes across our shoulders
and got bursitis.
Now we have sleek cars and central heating
and hot baths in warm rooms
but I’m glad the mountain looks the same
though more pockmarked with houses
and the crows are still raucous.
Those small persons are gone.
Where did they go? They went to Time.
They are gone like Pacific fishing villages I have known,
not swept away in floods or leveled by earthquakes
but simply grown, dirt paved, palapas into white concrete condos.
They’ve gone to a landscape in time not place
so that time itself has become a place.
I like to think they are still somewhere there
in the country of Time
seabreeze ruffling a palapa roof inside a rigid building,
child inside man, living.
We’ve always made houses out of
what happens to be around:
Sod, hay, ice, desert sand,
sticks and stones, roofs of palm frond.
And when I went to visit her
in that place, all I saw
at first was a heap of white towels,
waiting for the wash, I thought
and then I knew she was in there,
had built her house of the one natural material
indigenous to this place, and moved in for good.
The huge towels were wrapped and re-wrapped
around her, but most distinctive was the hood,
a monk’s cloak, medieval in subtropical Florida,
craftily draped so the front
could open or close in the middle.
She always had an inventive mind.
I parted the white hood in the middle
and saw her face, smaller, wrinkled, a shrunken head
and said, Hi, it’s me, it’s I, remember me?
but she had taken the monk’s vow of silence
and all I could say was, I miss you,
I love you, I’ll think of you
and finally she said very faintly, Thank you
and I closed the door to her white house.