by Ellen Stone
my father's eyes
The clock’s fingers, a crow’s shifting
wings, long open field.
What he thinks God has in store.
Fox tracks in new, fine snow.
Dogs baying in the distance.
Never wanting nightfall.
He of daybreak. He of beginning.
Of start over. Of sunrise.
Before it begins.
When night comes, he will drift.
All that used to be
hay, corn, buckwheat.
That used to swing, wave & rustle.
Cry its sweet dominion—owl,
kestrel, coyote song.
Just stray on over the valley,
tops of ridges, hills.
deep swells & hollows.
Dipping like the barn swallow,
kingfisher, tiniest of humming birds.
His hounds back from their run—
calling across rock ravine,
the hunt. His jacket, worn
beyond thread, the color of earth,
of old leaf, of dog ear.
Filled, the thermos, vessel,
boots & truck. Smooth, the stock
of rifle, sure groove for a shoulder,
its red-brown luster, a hound’s
You are the container of the world,
the whole hull of a lake ship at port.
Morning fog is lifting off you
steaming in your eagerness.
Winter’s ice has not yet broken through
even though it is spring, so waves
are frozen in mid-air. Everything
is ready for you—opening in the smallest
of spaces, pockets like air bubbles.
Pike and steelhead sluggish in waiting,
hiding holes in swaying currents.
Rocking fish like underwater babies,
the fluid of the blue grey lake tumbling
gently, the way hands cup eggs while
carrying them. And, that is all you want,
to hold in the giant maw of your belly
that small safeness, a place of wonder,
however murky and unready. This
holding, like breath, sharp + necessary.
But cold and sour until filled, not knowing
if you ever will be.
Here you are still trying to get home: dirt roads, hedgerows, trees dripping. All
that can be collected, wandering like a creek gathers: leaves off the ash tree, loosening,
Dad’s minnow trap, feather of a goose Granny plucked, its slender length, curve & drift.
Back in the hills, coyotes call off the bluestone mountain. O winter, o ice flow, fissures,
so light & so broken. Unleashed, the brook spring flows down the small valley
into ditch, stream, then river, all swollen with cargo. Connecting like fabric laid still
across these hallmarks. Of prairie, of small town. The quilt of attempting. Another time.
Empty courtyard below. One light burning while the baby nurses. Another late observer
remembering sky black with ivy, cattle chewing & plodding on, warm barn ahead, pail
of grain, its bits of molasses, low of the cows. “Soo wee!" she calls & them, trudging,
the same familiar lane, repeating. Farmer comes round, bucket of corn, or milk. Poem
contained in a moment, neuron made permanent. Gathered & saved. Here is the morning,
its egg for you. Here the noonday bread. The pail of afternoon, its beauties, jonquils +
greens. Night will slide down the pasture now. Its roof made of shadows.
A Midwesterner now, Ellen Stone was born and raised in the Appalachian mountains of rural northeastern Pennsylvania. She teaches at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan and calls northern Michigan “up north.” Ellen’s poems have appeared lately in Passages North, The Collagist, The Citron Review, The Museum of Americana, and Fifth Wednesday. She is the author of The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013). Ellen’s poetry has been nominated twice for a Pushcart prize and twice for Best of the Net.