Eldest Son by Judy Kaber

My mind moved in a thumping wind that day,
hefting the ax, boots hitting leaf bred trail.
Thoughts of all the empty places–beneath
the bed, the wooden peg, kitchen shelves,
the old hog’s pen. Everything thin and mean,
till I’m down to eating pancakes and one
small skein of wine, so little to hold me
through heavy chopping, fifty swings
of the ax to fell one tree. A gray mood,
so at first I didn’t see the little gray man,
another beggar, they are all about these days,
like mushrooms popping up beneath rotten trees,
this one no different than the others. Tattered
gray breeches, tangled gray hair, beard, teeth,
lips –- everything gray. No wonder I turned aside,
pushed him away. Yet his shadow followed me,
shivered in the tree, caught up in the swinging
of my ax, startled me, until I threw up my arm,
saw the dark blade kiss me with the bite
of a bitter lover, the ache of someone
who hates you underneath.

Judy Kaber’s poems have appeared in Eclectica, Off the Coast, The Comstock Review, and The Guardian. Contest credits include the Maine Postmark Poetry Contest and the Larry Kramer Memorial Chapbook Contest. Judy is a retired elementary teacher who enjoys reading, writing, and exploring Maine. See more of her work at judykaber.com.

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