Jane Kenyon

1947-1995 / United States

Private Beach

It is always the dispossessed—
someone driving a huge rusted Dodge
that’s burning oil, and must cost
twenty-five dollars to fill.
Today before seven I saw, through
the morning fog, his car leave the road,
turning into the field. It must be
his day off, I thought, or he’s out
of work and drinking, or getting stoned.
Or maybe as much as anything
he wanted to see
where the lane through the hay goes.
It goes to the bluff overlooking
the lake, where we’ve cleared
brush, swept the slippery oak
leaves from the path, and tried to destroy
the poison ivy that runs
over the scrubby, sandy knolls.
Sometimes in the evening I’ll hear
gunshots or firecrackers. Later a car
needing a new muffler backs out
to the road, headlights withdrawing
from the lowest branches of the pines.
Next day I find beer cans, crushed;
sometimes a few fish too small
to bother cleaning and left
on the moss to die; or the leaking
latex trace of outdoor love....
Once I found the canvas sling chairs
broken up and burned.
Whoever laid the fire gathered stones
to contain it, like a boy pursuing
a merit badge, who has a dream of work,
and proper reward for work.
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