I KNEW A MAN FROM WAYAH BALD
I thought of him as valiant, because he seemed bruised, and far removed from anything I knew about life. This was 50 years ago, on meeting my friend’s grandfather. He greeted us with coffee cup in hand; the cup never washed due to purposeful neglect, in order to not taint the flavor. He toured us slowly, not around acreage, but around what he called his “place in the universe”. That seemed right, because he lived in the mountain, not on it, embedded like the bloodroot that bets its short life on what might be beyond itself.
He was a small man, handsome once, but worn down now, slightly bent as though honed and burnished beyond resistance—the force of his personal history, unspoken. His cabin surrounded by underbrush, the warp and woof bound together by tension, necessary to conquer the weight and wind. Its mainstay, one immutable slab of timber. The façade, off-center a bit, an ashen grey that blended with the thicket of twig and bramble. His companion, a scraggly mutt, crouched at his feet.
His daily habits were stated in a simple, and patterned existence. The front steps, worn and weathered, with evidence of no other footsteps than his own. He gave us no prompts as to our visit being a pleasure, or an intrusion. He didn’t converse, but rather remarked about things he could point to, like Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, and the Screech Owl we could hear in the distance. I was young then, and without enough history of my own, to understand how to engage him, in the stories of his life. When he died, neighbors showed up to help. He wasn’t placed into the ground, but into a poplar coffin, sturdy enough, so he would not leave too quickly, but rather, slowly dissolve into earth.
Prose poem 2023
Photo: Haw Creek 2021