Mennonite Poetry Home | Leonard Neufeldt




A home of years ago is not itself beholden
to the past like the lichened
outcrops of layered bedrock,
their architecture for a God
of permanent dwelling in a refugee hamlet
and its doctrines of starting over with whatever
has been salvaged and what fields
between wetlands will yield. A village
that couldn’t imagine running out of time,
its peacefulness protected by hoods of willows
and regimented rows of poplars.
A boy’s loyalties laying hold of what
you knew, even the wind from the Pacific
wandering through hesitant barnyard smells.
The sky a journeying forth of cloud, rain,
hint of rainbow and blue-like departures
beckoning you, that also felt like home
well before you left, before any
dead reckoning could tell you
where you really lived, who you are
or what stays with you after bulldozers
and builders have done their work

The solid feel of the wheel as you take
the old way back into town for a day
that started with a vague desire to be left
alone like the past anxious about
a village that’s going the way a body goes

Not the scars of where the Co-op once stood
like a promise to a chosen people,
nor the tire-track circles in a new park
strutted out to meet a visitor’s drive-by,
and not the store offering “Whatever
You Need” or the sign to Cultus Lake.
It’s not directions that you need now
although the years have renamed the streets,
all of them. And it’s not the stir
of remembrance or unlearning
the names. It’s the years themselves,
their unfamiliarity, like the point-blank
stare your way of the old man idling
his pickup slowly by,
his mouthed words lost on you although
you learned long ago to read lips

You have been thinking of spent days,
how they veered, how some met with peril,
how you said more than once “I
will arise and go.”
Something in you wants to know
what he has done with his life and whether
memory changes us, even if
his words may not be meant for you at all
and he is merely singing of a heaven
of uncomplaining plainness
that never needed to deal with a past,
not even with “When I was younger . . .”
Or are they unforgiving words
for old-timers, those who return
with a high-end jacket over their arm
in order to walk the street and feel neglected?
Perhaps he sees a bony stranger who won’t
come back again, will leave no trace
like the heavy exhaust of his truck
circling slowly away. You,
the only one left this Sunday morning
on Yarrow Central Road.
Your visit has no real words. Not yet.
Nor does the house behind you, where
you in your wetness first breathed in
the chill of the world, and the midwife
prophesied of worlds elsewhere,
which she was wont to do




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