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Thursday, January 01, 2009

The wall


[risa, reposting]

The wall her father built to muscle back
the brown flood waters of his creek still stands.
It leans away from the run and hugs the contour

of serpentine embankment, redeeming years of silt
by interlacing a thousand granite slabs,
denying tide of spring and spill of storm.

He could not bear to think of land he'd
paid for, picking up to run away downstream
ending in useless mingling with other men's dirt

all at the foot of the continental shelf
ten miles beyond the Chattahoochee's mouth.
So, he built. Each day, though worn from climbing

poles in Georgia sun for the Georgia Railroad,
he slowly removed his cotton shirt and sank
to his knees in his creek, feeling for stones

with bare toes, prying them out of bed
with a five-foot iron bar. He heaved them up,
wet and substantial, on the opposite bank,

and judged them, and carried them, staggering,
to their specific spot in the rising wall,
setting them down like Hammurabi's laws, never

to be revoked. The whole he stocked and faced
with wet cement his daughter carried to him,
breathless, in a pair of buckets
slung

from a home-carved yoke. Wall done,
he capped it with a pointing trowel, and with
his finger wrote the girl's name and the year

nineteen fifty-five, which you will find today
if you scrape back moss. The house has had
six owners since, and of these, has none given thought

to who prevented their foundation washing out
with freely offered labor long ago? ... perhaps
they have. There's something in that wall's

being there that speaks of someone's having lived
and looked upon the land, giving shape to time
and place, taking stone in hand.

1995

6 comments:

  1. Georgia roots? Kinda. NW Georgia, NE Alabama. The same kind of place except that the time zone changes from one state to the other.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The wall was (is!) in the Decatur area, east of Atlanta. I spent much of my childhood in Camak, a tiny place west of Augusta. It was a Georgia RR junction. Most of the family came from Paulding County, not too far from Lookout Mountain.

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  3. I especially like the part about the people living there not thinking about the efforts of those before them. That's why we bought out house... it was old and lived in and I figured that it had already survived fights and teenagers and money problems and it continued to stand. Somehow, that felt very comforting.

    Peace to you in the New Year, my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Risa,
    As as stone mason and stream restorer I found this poem very heartwarming.
    Also thanks for the link to the Permaculture & Regenerative Design Blog [http://kjpermaculture.blogspot.com/]
    I've taken the liberty of adding your blog to the new Permaculture Blog list there.
    Keith Johnson

    ReplyDelete
  5. @M:
    Ditto, my dear.

    @K: Oh, noes! This means we're going to have to get serious about th' permaculture now, doesn't it?

    ;)

    No, really. Deeply touched.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What family I have left in Georgia lives in Wildwood, a really small town near a bigger small town, Trenton. Both are in extreme NW Georgia. I'm from Mississippi though--moved here in 1986 after 37 years there.

    ReplyDelete

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