Island Cowboy

for Howard

I go home

slowly these days.

each return

is to morn another

absence.

death upon death

rip at my roots tenuous

grasp on the rock, leaving

feet dangling,

fingernails clutch,

slide down glacier boulders

unable to hold.

childhood memories

glitter, the kids I watched

raised, no longer recognize

my smile and elders pass

25 miles an hour

and out of sight.

as a kid my voice hid

but I listened to the words

that shaped the island we all whirled

life out of, you too kept your voice close

but I knew the stories trapped

under your sweat stained,

always tipped

once white hat

were the ones I earned to learn.

there always, in your chair

at community dances, oxygen tank in tow

transparent cord never slowin you down

I watched with respect

learning: dignity, kindness, diligence

through your cocked bushy eyebrows

the always wave over truck steering wheel

as I passed on my bike

shouldering school books through the woods.

lost lives

become frozen words,

action, memory

we always wish there was more to say

trapped between storm windows.

you weathered each gale

life threw at you, thumbs cocked

in creased leather belt,

pointed boots digging

their weight into gravel turned mud

and that particular accent.

the shape your thoughts took

when you let us share them

lingers,

as our island ghosts

return each drizzly day

to feather their comfort

down on our shores.

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