Member Rara Avis
Visiting Earth on a Guest Pass
Here he comes, Inkydot.
He walks by sometimes even yet,
between the banks of that dirt road
that I can still see, yellow clay all cracked
where storm puddles have turned
to little drymud hexagons that curl
and shimmer in the August sun,
just an old man coming up the road,
steering for each blue isle of shade
beneath the big wide maple trees.
I see him yet, the baggy trousers somebody
gave him, already old when he got them.
Everything about him old then except his eyes,
eyes of no time, peaceful old man face,
hesitating old man step, coming up out of
the woods, along the side of our house, down
to the skinny path across the wheat field,
disappearing toward Linden for groceries
and sometimes a hip flask of Old Crow.
Always walked behind the house,
never in front. I know why now,
like I know a lot of whys now.
But I never knew how important he was.
Didn’t know him at all, really. No one did,
but if you talked to him he’d answer you,
and that was enough for a kid.
And I never saw his cabin in the woods,
though I saw his little crops, bits of corn
in the shallow turns by the creek,
a few pole beans in a clearing.
I never knew a lot of things about him,
never asked him the books he carried
sometimes, one of them a Bible,
the other with no name until I understood,
just knew one day a lot of years later,
when he wasn’t old anymore.
“What’s your real name,” I asked once.
“Jus’ Inkydot,” eyes away, the tiny hermit voice
a whisper I had to lean toward him to hear.
“Inkydot what?” And no answer
for a couple of steps, then he pulled
that other book half out of his hip pocket,
stuck it back. “Clemens.”
There were some things Inkydot
didn’t know either, even if he was old.
That’s how I knew about the book one day,
that it was about a kid named Tom,
who’d helped another…Inkydot.
His last name wasn’t Master, but he
was old enough to remember a man
who had that name to him, and the man
was not his father. Just old enough for that.
A man can be too old, I guess.
He wasn’t there much, weeks would go by
and you didn’t see him. Then weeks went by
and nobody saw him. They went to look,
and found him in the cabin. Buried him
beside it, free of being Inkydot at last.
Someone said they did that,
but I don’t know. Too young to read
the paper, barely old enough to know him.
But a boy can be old enough, I guess.