Poems of Place & Displacement

The Wakeful

The frost lineís not descended yet
into Minnesotaís desolate plain
ponded with rice, planted in flax;
but the earth makes the plough stutter
over syllables of stubble.  The seasonís
last beets, purple with sugar,
shoulder to shoulder, tremble in bins
like unsaid words, loaded on haulers
whose diesel engines grunt
then settle back in silence.

Dusk falls, a time for going home.
I drive my rented sedan into town,
past an oversized northern pike
guarding Erskine proper, past the graveyard
tilled for morning.  Tomorrow my dad completes
his journey, returns.  Tonight his casket
is flanked by mums in urns.  The wakeful gather
at the mortuary; aging farmers pass coffee cups
and kind words; the pastor interrupts
with a sermon, says weíre ants before God.

Some words are said, some kept,
some hauled across the Dakotas in sacks.
One door opens, another closes.
The mortician sneaks outside to smoke,
my dadís spirit on his heels.
He didnít particularly like mums
or sermons, but always wanted to share
the silence of stars with someone when,
power outage or sunset,
the light completely failed.

Photo Credit: US National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration

Copyright 2007,  Dave Seter

Dave Seter was born in Chicago.  A licensed civil engineer, he lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.  His poems have appeared in various journals, including Karamu, Wisconsin Review, and Blue Collar Review.

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