Issue 9 :: Summer 2007 
Avatar Review

Jared Carter

Last Visit

Only that when we walked there for the last time
beside the gambrel-roofed barn, before it came down,
the grass was knee high, and a pair of blue jays
darted back and forth in the mulberry trees,
up in the thick places, calling – and she said
think of it this way, mulberries come from China.

I've always thought they got this far because
people must have been raising silkworms, years ago.
I’ve heard the Shakers in Kentucky learned to spin
silk thread, so fine they had no trouble selling it
in Paris. And of course you know how Osage Orange
got up here from Missouri and Texas.
When it’s all gone – this house, the horse barn, the garden,
everything we’ve loved, even though it isn’t ours –
when they’ve paved it over with asphalt, and put in
whatever it is they want – well then these things
here – the sundial, the arbor with the grapes,
the plum trees – will move on.
She sat down on
the front steps of the porch. I stood beside her
looking out across the lawn. Trying to understand
what that means, she said, is the hardest part
of all. They won’t move on again as things, not
as grapes or stones or blossoms on the plum tree
blowing away in the wind. They’ll break down,
like everything else, completely. Utterly.
And yet the longer the universe lasts, the more
it changes, over and over, the more it sends up
its perfume, from all that making and remaking.

And it knows, I’m sure it does, I've sensed it once
or twice – reading over the lines of an old poem
I knew as a child, or hearing a certain song again.
Think of the way a book falls open sometimes
when you least expect it. Something flutters out
that you’ve forgotten you ever put there. Leaves
and flowers and clippings still turn up in the books
I inherited from my great-great-aunt.
Ribbons too.
I always look to see if they have leached across
the page and left an image of themselves. Notes,
postcards, shopping lists, torn strips of paper
used to mark a place. Left there against a time
she hoped to take them up again and find
some favorite phrase. Suddenly, out they fall,
as though reminding whoever’s there now –
I was here once. This book’s been read before.

What matters is that trace. There was a poet
back in those days who said “When we write
Men’s letters on proud marble or on sand,
We write them there forever.” That seems
to me an almost perfect prayer – for what
it means to come to love a place like this,
yet when it’s time, to give it up entirely.

Avatar Review 9 Contents