The past is ever-present
when it is just like the present was
but we pay it homage anyway.
Sarah's father, Josiah Clark,
lived on a hill in north New York
near where an old oak tree had stood
for what seemed ages. He took
an axe to it, shaped it to
his will by carving a table
that he and his partner
later carted to Kansas
and gave as a present
to their children, when they wed.
Now it sits at the center
of the Kent home, a constant presence
in Clark's world. He likes to feel
its many textures. Touching its top
(so smooth), and its knotty legs, fills
him with a sense of permanence,
the knowledge that what flesh wants,
They grow impatient.
"How does the prayer go, son?"
"Huh, Pa? Sorry, I wasn't listening."
Eben frets, but Sarah rises,
wets her finger with her tongue
and touches her son's brow.
"No fever, thank goodness." She sits,
and pleads, "Say our grace now Clark,
please." In front of his face he
slaps his paws together and
repeats the mechanical lines.
His elders smile and nod,
approving a performance that gnaws
to the marrow of Clark's every bone.
As he chews his roasted hare (awful!),
an alternate ritual calls,
trying to draw him from this home.
Once all the cake's been eaten
and the songs have all been sung
he wanders off in melancholy,
as if some other bell had rung.
His father momentarily ponders
the boy's more distant moods; but, then
the couple clear away the dishes and move
to the parlor for an evening by the fire,
where Sarah does her needlework and Eben,
in the manner of old country squires,
sits with a book by the hearth.