Sunday, March 17, 2019

Legend by John Freeman


My father’s father 
rode the rails west
into Grass Valley 
and buried three
children in the 
shadow of a tree that
spread its arms 
around his bakery.

Cold nights he saw
stars he didn’t know
existed, and heard
wild animals howling 
with a loneliness he
did know. 
His wife was dead. Every 
morning he woke

to the bread and 
chill, horses snuffling
in the dark. He had 
starved before,
in Canada, a winter
so ragged it killed
his dog, and this grief 
was that feeling,
shifted north into 
his chest.

A soul is not a 
diamond pressed 
down into something
hard like rock, 
but rather, the word
my father’s father
said to himself on
those too-cold
California nights when all
he could see was 
the work ahead of him,
the dead behind—
her name
He’d say her name.

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