Old Man
To The Memory of William Faulkner

Comes into the town from places not suspected,

Still clear and clean, in no great hurry except

When great storms wreak their wrath upon

The glistening limestone of that cradle.

So much inferred from the reflected night

In the west, and the water strong and sure

Whipping the banks, hissing, sweeping

Brown menace brooking nothing but stone

And that the best, bedded, in concrete

Solid to all movements else, monumental

To be swept aside, pebbled, in his time.

Yet in due season can like a cat lap

Lick the low stones, recede from gnarled

Protesting root of tree with heart half evidenced

And in the earth still growing shamed and tamed.

Though at such times no reason show for

The outraged limbs, the groping arms, wild

Cage, a run for rats and voles that should

Be secret to the dark earth.

With confidence, magnanimity no greater known

Caresses then, without intent to harm and doing none

A giant’s whisper, great bellows reeded to

A murmur, host to frail and frailest

Flesh and blood one stones hurt to end

Yet grows there, blossoms in his times trough

Of gentleness: children at one with water

Standing below the straw strands of his last blow.

And dips beneath the bridges, not

Moving them in one, but taking each a piece

However small and unremarked, a secret

Diminution of their strength until at last

The stones shriek and the iron groans, being

Too few and too small for the flood

That comes inevitable timing, his arm

Against man’s vigilance ensures destruction.

Then leaves the town suffering amelioration

From the moor’s clear streams, and turns

A backward look in whirlpool saying

All else is here because I was here first.