The summer the lake on top of the mountain
dried up completely & forever, I left
the place of my birth. Then I left the mountain
altogether after having been the last to stay,
finally giving up any hope for the lake to return.
I have since rented a one room hovel on Main Street
in a nearly abandoned & forgotten mill town.
I have learned in pieces of hearsay
that my father spent his boyhood near here,
that his father was a preacher in a small church close by.
These facts are merely chance as I feel little connection.
At times I find myself at zero.
I sing myself hoarse in the dark.
I notice I am stared at when I walk through town.
I think many more words than I say or sing.
We create what we want as we want it to be.
The town & its dwindling people have been erecting
a gray stoned cathedral for over three hundred years
since the town’s founding.
I walk past the unfinished cathedral daily, eat my fruit
on the shaded limestone slabs in its yard
as if they were tables hewn for centuries
for a single day’s gathering.
I have come again to zero
after I awoke in a large empty aerie atop a smokestack
within the closed paper mill’s fenced campus.
I wrote ‘You have earned your shade’ with my forefinger
into the grease & dust on a remaining pane of glass
after I climbed down the smokestack’s side.
As I descended the ladder, I imagined I was being watched
by a child who stood on a distant mountain, who sensed
he was observing something miraculous & impossible in the distance
in the town of the eternally built cathedral.
To him I was a bird that had changed into a man
overnight & now, unable to fly, slowly & clumsily
was making his way down from the sky
to join humanity as humanity diminished.
The man outside of town thinks that I’m foolish
but he still pays me anyway as always to toil in his fields.
I rotate piles of rocks from field to field,
one rock at a time, with a wooden barrow
that the man’s mule drags through the ruts.
This seems meaningful work for me to complete while the cathedral is being finished.