The man sits on the porch that is dying.
The screens cannot be mended,
and the wood sags deeper than the dog.
The man tells stories, old stories
about a swing and a rock and a jar of toads.
Children listen while the sun
slides from a leaf at the edge of the woods.
A fox, because he is in the habit of stopping, listens.
“I married young,” the man says,
“but my wife died for no apparent reason.
She was buried under a new moon
by a preacher who was pale
and spoke water and stones and nonsense.
I also came to many conclusions about the seasons,
which often trade places with each other.”
The fox knows this to be true and moves on.
The dog, however, has heard this before and sleeps.
“I have given back everything I stole,” the man says.
“Nearly.” He unscrews a jar,
and the children feel more alive and hopeful,
though they do not understand why.
They are almost certain the man has died.
They walk home with old stories,
thinking of water and stones and nonsense.
The light is gone from the leaf,
but the evening is full of toads.
Copyright, William Hammett, 2002