It Was Just a House

It was the year in which the plumbing went bad

That the beloved house, feeling perhaps neglected, began to reveal itself in ways

It had previously chosen to keep to itself, the dead, and the demented.

Redwood, granite, level-set oak floors and an emptied bedroom emanating puffs

of white smoke

Where the man who plowed the best break,


and furrow

Once lay,

Yellow teeth bared in the ineffable discomfort

Of Active Dying.

Where the gentlest woman had clawed

Him in the chest before being gentled off to a place notable for its nurses, her hair growing longer and whiter as out

Through the locks leaked the lady inside.

Observe (my brother and I) merely attempting to plug a leak above the kitchen sink.

In our Grandparents’ home.

It seemed to have sprung as a watery reminiscence from underneath

Green tile, the slab of cement, the redwood four by sixes.

Perhaps the flooding was — in truth — the final rusted fountain of memories we sought

To contain between our wet fingers

We couldn’t get at the pipes; each fat inch of wall so cemented — the facts

Obscured by the forgotten rose garden,

The desiccated orange tree, bark falling off in

surrendering strips

Distributing a few final white petals

About the bronzed lawn.

It was just a house–blessed with a solidity we each still sought

And rusted pipes elusive as cats. (What plumber

Could we have called?) Stopping ourselves short of prying up the floorboards,

Surreptitiously a large luminousness crept in: the leak sprung to provide proofs of what was essential if not entirely enduring.

Tall, ladylike poinsettias bursting crimson by the white double-hung dining room windows,

Big beamed redwood. Granite, horse-carted down from high mountains to pillar

The place.

Cigar smoke off the back porch, fresh squeezed lemonade, cherry pie cooling on the sill,

White bathrobes, Pendleton caps, bamboo fly rods, five irons, Saturday morning Pancakes from scratch and just the four of us in a tidy yellow kitchen.

No sound but the sound of batter bubbling quietly to itself.


Such a Fish

Do you remember the big trout

You caught that summer afternoon

Out on the little lake, hardly more than a

Pond of green and sweetly susurrous waters

In the mountain valley, we had

A small wind, a hot sun, an aluminum row boat your Dad

Could barely manage but

Our lines were tight

Your fine blonde hair lifted by that small wind

Suddenly your slender arms strove

As the rod doubled over and the fine feathery line

Ran like an excitement off the reel and all three hearts beat and once

He even leaped into our world,

Clear of the water

Red and silver and shining like someone’s future

When you were seven and I forty two and we had tight lines


Small girls could be happy for hours

After catching

Such a fish.


I Watch You Rise

Now, fifty summers behind me,

I come, at last, to worship you.

From my narrowed kitchen window

I watch you rising in ever higher,

Ever-reaching ranks, Tai Chi to the wind.

I see only now what has long been written:

That you leap back

Ever green, ever graceful

No matter how flattened

No matter how fierce or feral

The hammering of the wind;

That your roots snicker at stump grinder, axe,

Poison, pesticide, salt, even the casting of spells;

That excavation will be as foolish a pursuit

As imprisoning wind. You,

(One of three friends in winter,

Sanctuary from evil)

And the woman inside you

Await, a still field of fallen snow,

Your sole exuberance of flowering.

If but one fine fingerling

Of root remains

Up you jump:

Rising ineradicable and readied,

Supple and slender-leafed,

Reaching to hook the sky,

As I brew the morning coffee, bamboo.
Ian D. Campbell


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