In the deep woods I find an abandoned farm,
well-house leaning, water still flowing
like wind that blows above it. Whose lips
last touched the cold tin dipper, lowered
the bucket now brown with rust, full
of bullet holes? The front step

is missing, but the house has not finished falling,
I wonder who sat on the porch churning butter,
shelling peas, talking to a neighbor from across
the holler who paused on her walk back
from the latest ceremony of loss. Even a stranger
can go deeper in the story, move
into the draft and history of the empty living

room, imagine who last raised a fire
to keep maybe seven children warm and one
bird dog that earned his keep pointing
the way. Did they all die off to rest in unmarked
graves, or leave along the unnamed mud road?
Are there children somewhere still living
in the dream of this place, still pricked
by its splinters?

Robert S. King. First published in Southern Poetry Review