His grey hair wisping out
beneath the constant cap,
he hunches on the barstool.

Under a carapace
of half-chat and cliché—
The sun was splitting the stones.

He could make that fiddle talk
his heart is blindly casting:
his words lifebelts, dragnets…

Then home by narrow roads,
entering the yard to find
every window lightless.

The ashes piling up.
Alone mug. Scraps and crumbs.
The clock ticking, ticking.

*

And yet he’s at the core
of things: watching over
calving cows; setting crops;

his silage pits distilling
meadows, harvests spilling
into grain-bins. And yet…

Sometimes, at odd moments—
maybe while raising
a glass, or tending lambs,

or flicking off fag-ash—
the years flash back at him,
as fresh as yesterday:

summers that seemed free of rain;
a match about to start;
dances, airy dresses.

And, sometimes, he’s jolted
out of roused sleep: groping,
dreams fleeing the bare sheets.