. . . the flow of time we call history . . . .
Then soldiers in gray stopped their file.
From the cellar of the shack they lugged
blocks of ice they stacked on rigs.
The white woman and black children stood,
gazing after the men, carts, and horses
rounding the dirt road’s curve, into summer.
Then the roof hangs, half collapsed,
slush dripping from the joists.
A caved‑in hut, the elm. At forest’s edge
five muddy goats appear. Bending low
their twisted horns, they yank at sedge.
Eyes of gold. Then the rustle of
the others, shades trudging up
the hill at dusk, bandaged and beggarish.
They pitch their rifles in the snow.
One glances up as though startled
by a mirror hung in a stranger’s home
he’d entered to loot. His eyes close.
He breathes his prayer for those who will
finally make it past an open field
or who will meet themselves in crossing
like the junco as it jolts against
its own image in the window glass.
A gaze was dazed, smoke-stung, glimpsing
a final shape of elm, branching past seeing.
Rain healed the dirt road of the wounds
of the tracks of wagon wheels and horses.
Fifteen decades died to days and nights.
The goats file on to the shabby pen
to rut and mingle in the night.
The old stump rots, rising, elm opening
arms of madonna, her branches offering.