in the Flesh
past doors closed for good
I wonder where all the children are
who used to gather outside them
so many we had to have two shifts
in our one-room, one-grade schools.
The girls who made pine needle "sausages"
and hung them to dry in the smoke
of the community oven, while the loaves
rose on the dark shelves, the fire
burned under the dome.
The boys who watched the red-hot hammering
outside the blacksmith shop
marveling at the mystery of fire and water
to change what seemed unchangeable.
Like the alchemy of time and memory,
the alchemy of their passionate play:
seven smooth stones, a short stick
and a long, a sheep's knucklebone.
On this spot the itinerant photographer
submerged the small squares
in a white enamel basin, and we saw
the blackness fade, our images form
beneath the water, rise to the surface.
And like a double exposure
when the people I know
come out of their houses to greet me,
the people we were, buried in the flesh,
rise through the layers of time
and stand between us
with their smooth ignorant faces
while those who are gone
linger in the shadows of doorways
in the frames of windows.
Look out of our eyes.
Whether we say their names or not,
they reach into the quick and squeeze.