Tink shouted, “Did you hear my bad news?” I turned
from bucking up firewood and killed the engine.
How different he looked, our tough old bantam
neighbor– a rascal, but stolid as stone.
Here stood a suddenly tinier version.
No one in town would believe he’d cry.
Things had to be bad. He told me why:
“Mike’s gone. Some business called… aneurism.”
I caught my breath. Mike? His grandson?
Fallen at forty. Tink and Polly
had practically raised him up from a schoolboy.
(There were troubles with the in-between generation).
Tink’s gone, but I see him back twenty years,
red oak sawdust pooled at his feet.
I still can’t believe he actually weeps.
Two-stroke exhaust smoke loiters on air,
no matter I’ve choked the saw dead quiet.
Mosquitoes strafe us. I somehow recall
Mike passing in front of our house last fall,
trailed by the 6-point buck he’s shot.
Two flecks of blood have dried on one cheek,
and in spite of November’s chill, he sweats
from dragging that whitetail out of our woods.
For years he’s been bigger than Grandpa Tink.
So is the deer. (Mike will give our family
good venison backstrap later that autumn.)
Who’d predict I’ll go over to Tink and hug him?
Not even I. It’s surprising he lets me.
How long does he soak my shoulder like this?
Long enough, it seems, for me to sense
something like splendor in this awkward clench
by which I’ll always feel shocked and blessed.