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The Family Stones

For Fred G and Grant Watson White
by Philip White

Hours in bed
devising a walking machine.

One hand curled, enervate,
like a heavy claw. Toes
on one foot
more twisted every day.

One good foot
still measures time
beneath the sheets.

Already for weeks
of unmitigated cold
you talked of putting
the garden in early.

We knew you’d be
taking shelled peas
to neighbors
before their seeds
had broken the crust.

Now pillows prop you .
When the blinds are up,
you can see a window
overlooking a garden
gone to seed.

One sunday
your daughters
rolled you in your chair
under the drooping willows
to church.

While the voices
of some who’ve loved you sang
“There is a green hill far away,”
arthritic agony kept you alive ,

That night
you asked
what “faraway” meant.

How tidy you kept
the family stones.
Grass around the markers
clipped, flowers
in the urns.

Tonight you said you saw
Fred and your mother
in the garden window

You wanted to go
to the cemetery again,
to lie down
beside your son,
my father.