In the dream that recurs, like a bird returning, the place is still as it was—as though they went away, years ago, fully intending to be back by first dark. Sometimes I find myself at the mouth of the road—the red dust so fine the wind lifts it like a scarf, and I walk down toward the house, past what were the fields of tobacco, the shrunken pasture. One of the curing barns still stands, struggling against poison ivy, saplings, wisteria, but that insistent pull cannot undo the smell of woodsmoke and old heat.
The outbuildings are filled with the rusty detritus of the work: log-chains, slides, plowshares, saws and shears, the harness that galled the mule's rump. Honeysuckle weaves tight through the stalled warp of the hayrake.
The house rises, vacant, the porch and front door lost behind a dense wall of privet I part and pass through. I know I will find my bed still made, and Sister's and my brothers', their portraits staring from gilt-framed soot and glass as though through the fog that is time. There is no one left to know the life that happened here and say their names out loud. I have come home for this.
Published in Pinion: An Elegy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002).
Published: 26 October 2009
© 2009 Claudia Emerson and Southern Spaces