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crane

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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Fred Lowe


Night Arrival

The old man will be sitting in the battered chair outside the door, pooling his rancor, rehearsing his recriminations in case I don't come to see him the second I step out of the car. His cat will be patrolling the porch rail with huge impatience. His wife will be sitting quietly at the table in their spartan kitchen. Hands folded, she'll be watching through the window as the sky drains of one hue and is inked with another. Worn from the day's work, she'll be hoping we'll arrive soon.

We make the turn-off and come around the sharp curve in the gravel road. Cat, man, and wife will have heard us. I park in our half-hidden, overgrown drive. My wife and kids stay behind to unpack the car.

And so at last I come,
climbing the steep lane
to where the lamp burns

in the crooked pear tree at the bottom of his garden.

The old owl-eyed man
and his cat see me coming
better than I can see myself

Struggling in the dark for footing on the loose cobbles, I hear all around me the underlying ground of silence. An owl trills softly, throatily somewhere uphill in the spruce woods. A late evening thrush calls twice from the down-slope alder thicket, but quiets itself as I pass.

Cat and man come down the steps to meet me. I see Lucy's silhouette against the light from the kitchen and hear the screen door slamming behind her. Before there's a chance to say a word,

the old man's arms go round me
wrapped in night-dampened tweed,
rough and redolent as moss

His eyes shine and then flash away as he hobbles around the corner of the porch to pee. I hear his heavy, long-suffering sigh –"ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that goddam prostrate". I avert my eyes discreetly, hearing the plash of his water against the side of the house.

And water again,
alongside me
in the cistern,

its obsidian surface
alive with the home country's
bright swarm of stars.




crane