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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 188-189

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Portraits in a Lost Grey

Portraits in a Lost Grey

Theirs, one of the last I saw
   a cabin staked to a hillside
      porch pulling away

two corrugated sheets
   from the rusted roof
      in the gully below

Dorie, George's wife, never feeling
   quite right in her head
      after a childhood fall

wash lines with no run
   up and down the hill    squirrel
      for dinner, supper

he was a tenant farmer
   like my father up creek
      night-hunting together

possum, racoon, skunk
   the virgin woods sour
      with black oak

his twelve dogs ate chickens
   wouldn't hunt
      days he ran traps [End Page 188]

farmed with mules
   didn't trust horse sense
      the iron of tractors

he said the only pain
   he ever felt was in his
      dick they had no children

when he died, when
   isn't clear, Dorie
      no longer could notice

when she died, no one
   was sure not the kind to leave
      a sideboard or settings for eight

they've been gone so long
   I'd like to see them George
      whistling "Jimmie crack corn"

in quick shadows of the clearing
   Dorie hanging to a porch rail
      calling George to squirrel.

Robert Bense's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, the New Republic, the Sewanee Review, and others.



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