Doug Van Gundy

Farmstead: Back Mountain Road

“Roof it again, batten down, dig in.”

—Seamus Heaney, “Lightenings, ii”


Enter into that unwalled space, that foundation

where the hewn bones of roof and rafter

repose on the disregarded floor.


Pick your way through dead planks and dry leaves

to the corner where the table stood, where in the late-evening

glow of a coal-oil lantern forks coaxed deer


steak and potatoes into open mouths and tickled

enameled plates into a clattery kind of music. Guess

at where the bedstead stood, the island of quilt and straw


into which all but the first lives that lived

within these walls were born. Amid broken glass,

find an empty picture frame and the rotting chestnut gate


that must have been the mantle. Regard the chimney, a smoky cairn

that channeled the gray souls of dead oaks,

hand-set and mortarless, outstanding the confusion


of twisted boards that the house has become. Do not romanticize

the lessons to be learned here. Do not

ignore them.



“Farmstead: Back Mountain Road” is from A Life Above Water, (Red Hen Press, 2007).