by Peter Halpin
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, February 2020
Judged by R.T. Castleberry

We would take the shortcut across the fields
and through the ash plantation, kicking
up fallen dried leaves or scrambling
down rocky slopes, him holding my hand
or my shirt collar if I got to far ahead. Not
much of a talker, only speaking to offer warning
or encouragement. I’d be shoulders slung
over creeks and rail lines. This was my only time
with him. I talked as little as him, cast a glance
now and then when in doubt or a grunt if my nerve
exceeded my ability as I basked in his shadow.
When he died, he lay twig-like on the bed,
cancer had eaten him to death and left
nothing for us to bury, except a box
of dried bones. After, I used to visit
him and lie leaf-like on his grave, hoisted
on his shoulders through the ash plantation
as low hanging branches combed my head.

A tramp through the woods with a taciturn father and a devotedly mimicking son. --R.T. Castleberry