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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

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