Taking the Stairs
I’m careful on the steps, coming down a long stone set in Lisbon, finding the railing with a trailing hand while my daughter skips ahead with her lover like Ginger and Fred down to the waterfront and the rest of their lives. I grip the metal, cool cylinder, feel a hundred years of use, watch the man kneeling to the side repair cobblestones one cube at a time, methodical, the cop minding him, hands clasped behind his back, eyeing me as I stop and snap the photo. I leave them there to do their jobs, descend again, the young people now far ahead, their shapes growing smaller and darker as they go, silhouettes against the late afternoon sea.
In the Cow Shed
The cows turn their great heads through the grates of the feeding bars in time with my steps as I pass, moist nostrils pushing air up and out of their bellies, bits of hay falling from wet mouths when they bellow. I am a stranger here in the cold shed and they sense it. Paul hands me a hay fork and a bucket and tells me in a week he’ll make me into a farmer. I look at him and know it takes a lifetime, his own black eyes sensing the cattle’s every need and the needs of Fiona making dinner after teaching all day, the mortgages no number of cattle sold for a good price will suffice, the land of generations beneath his feet that will give and give as he does, smiling at his joke and strutting off to get the tractor. I fill the bucket with the hose outside the shed door, the hay fork damp in my soft hands, the bull with bad feet who eats his special millet keeping one eye on me.
BILL O’CONNELL has been living in the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts between the Connecticut River and Quabbin Reservoir since 1984. A retired social worker, he teaches literature and writing at Greenfield Community College and runs a small handyman business. Bill’s books of poetry include Sakonnet Point (Plinth Books 2011) & On The Map To Your Life (Dytiscid Press 1992) plus poems in anthologies and literary magazines such as The Sun, Poetry East, Colorado Review, Green Mountains Review, etc. A new collection, When We Were All Still Alive, is just out from Open Field Press.
Cover image by GJ Gillespie.
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