national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2011

Aberdeen Farm, A Crossing

David Leach  • 
Oberlin College

I.

Pick some fruit, bruised purple.

We did not plant this tree.

 

So we walked,

so we stand, lakeside.

The grey dock.

 

Wind breaks water into a rough sketch

of sky, the circling forest.

 

The dogs will fetch ‘til after

dusk, undercoats dripping mud,

their grins a bone joy.

 

 

II.

How many rooms in the house?

 

A mother buried in the garden,

her painting of blackbirds

over the piano.

 

Four generations of sun.

What the dust knows.

Kitchen tile so patient under

our steps, spilt mustard and

the talk of building fences.

 

Smell the afternoon like new paper.

 

 

III.

Brush pile twenty feet tall for burning,

gasoline in dirty cans waits for first snow.

 

The barking dogs over some distance–

echoed attempts at more than language,

an engagement.

 

The sprained ankle river softly under the lichened bridge.

 

 

IV.

Cut down the apple tree quick

to accept the axe,

a companion of a kind.

 

Not in the blow,

but in the touch before,

the testing.

 

These roots are not enough.

From the chimney–to be a cloud–

these roots are everything,

will be even after.

 

 

V.

On the hill dividing

the properties, the neighbors

dump hundreds of clam shells

dredged from their lake dug

from their fields.

 

Wear orange in hunting season,

keep the dogs close.

 

Feed the chickens at dawn.

Do not swim in the lake alone,

the lake alone.