"Mantle Poem" by John Robinson

On a breezy, April afternoon we stood out of breath from our climb.  
Daffodils thrust up in the clearing of a old home-place, 
leaning in clots of barren growth.  
We passed into an opening of disjointed boards, 
through a short hallway into the living-room.  
Mostly fallen from exposure, sun-bleached, moss-covered lumber
clung together with rusted nails, corroded hinges, 
this hull from as far back as 1853, 1913?  
Only bleary photographs could show that life.  
Time passes.  Wind slips in.  We don’t see with the same eyes.  
Along one wall, pieces of ironwork and glass lay covered in dust, 
a single wasp comb where the light-bulb hung.  
Ceiling edges and outside sills have coiled in vine.  
Sparrows lodged in half-rotted walls.  
Leaves cluttered the floor, creaked even under her light feet
as she crept toward the hearth.  
Those fingers worked among loose brick; 
each one tumbled down, each nail, with ease removed.  
Worn, though still intact, 
five or six boards of tongue-and-groove wood painted sickly ocher, 
now faded, chipped and peeled in places so worn the wood grain shown.  
Each side was carved as a pillar, 
straight lines cut top to bottom.  
The shelf was a sanded two-by-four, 
curved backing rounded in arcs, met mid-way, curled out on each side.  
We carried her mantle upside down, guided, 
pushed through grass, lifted over rough ground.  
Easing around thorns, half-way down the path, 
her arms grew tired, so we sat for a while on rocks
beneath a stand of oak and pine.  
I want more than a remnant.  
I remember what they said to me, all of them, every word.

John Timothy Robinson is traditional and a graduate of the Marshall University Creative Writing program in Huntington, West Virginia. He has published in 39 journals since August 2016. John teaches for Mason County Schools in West Virginia.  Most recent work appears in: The Magnolia Review, Tipton Poetry Journal and Plainsongs. 

Posted on July 17, 2017 .