by K. Dawes

To hold our lives together on the cart
before the slow march after midnight
along back-roads, blind-driving, the scent
of the exhaust making us drowsy, every
shadow in the fields a threat of sorts;
we use rope thick as two thumbs side by side,
pulling hard on the knot to keep our
parts from falling by the wayside. We
have kept this rope supple with oil,
constant use, never letting it stay
idle long enough to rot. It is hard
to look at the coiled silence of our
strongest rope and not think of what
it has held: the heavy grey-green
battered bucket knocking the stone
sides of the wall, top water spilling
back down, this cherished substance,
carrying our lives; the mare, white
and grey, plodding across the wide
open field at dusk, her head heavy
with labor, the rope a caress
against her neck, the way she
turns towards a gentle tug, we
hold the balance of our need
in thin rope; the dead weight
of Junebug at dawn, his skin still
steaming, his beautiful black skin
catching the morning light, tender
among the leaves, how we found him
there, his neck stretched, the wrapping
of several yards of taut rope
around the drooping branch; where
we found it, how we undid the knot,
let his body down into our
arms then carried it like a soldier’s
flag, bearing it behind the cart
shaking along with his swollen body.
This ordinary rope, this gift
we cannot forget, this remembrance
of what we have lost. Someday,
a soul will come out of the fields
to claim it, and then we will know.

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