We parked the truck and stepped out
Onto the road that used to be a highway
Of my childhood, winding through Mayes County
To the Grand River bluffs, where my mother
Said hobos made cave camps and where a train
Ran a solitary line amidst the blackjack
And sawbriar. I am holding your hand.
The bridge is a skeleton above the skeleton
Of trees in late winter, their flesh shy
To appear, their fragile arms a sacrifice
Above the muddy, moving water that could
Carry us both into that inlet on the north bank
Where the sycamores live in the mud
And the hookman waits for darkness
To rise from the ravine to the road to do his work.
I am holding your hand. I live in the place
Of my past and it has become a photograph
Of a ruin. It smells of decayed leaves and pine,
Salty tribalism of railroad wood and acrid tar.
You fit here, and I feel you had lived beside me
All this time without either of us knowing,
That you laughed as I stopped mid-bridge
With my teenage friends and terrified ourselves
On a Saturday night, waiting for the hookman
To descend upon us, that you tramped
Beside my sisters and brother as we explored
The Snake River woods behind our house,
That you have been with me and waiting
For all of my life. I am holding your hand.
–for Ken: Happy Valentine’s Day