James Galvin

1951 / Chicago, Illinois


The more I see of people, the more I like my dog.
And this would be good country if a man could eat scenery.

The lake's ice gives light back to the air,
Shadows back to water.

In wet years the land breathes out,
And a crop of limber pines jumps into the open
Like green pioneers.
In dry years
Beetles kill them with roadmaps
Under the skin.

The land breathes in.
The sun goes down,
And the whole sky cracks like rivermud in drought.

A few trees make it each time,
As if some tide carried them out, away from the others.

They say a tree that falls in timber
Goes down in good company:
Snow drifts in and it all goes soft.

They say a ghost is a ghost
That doesn't know it's dead yet.

Those limber pines die standing, lightning-struck, wind broke,
And enough good pitch
For a hermit's winter.

The cabin stood; the man was long dead.
Packrats nested in the firewood,
And a crowd of medicine bottles held forth on the shelf.

When hermits die
They close their eyes. They never hear
The parson sermonize how somewhere
There is hope where no hope was.

A chance to be alone for a chance to be abandoned,
Everything is lost or given.

Hermits never know they're dead till the roof falls in.
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