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Winnowing The Hay
by Shirley Love
for my father
Chaff and straw bed made up in the barn
where he lies awake
no southern whiskey or feather-down quilt
in his loft in Kansas.
Old winnowing of child
from parent, dead sweet mother
her eyes heavy with morphine
dead stern and sterner father
never to cry in front of his son
never to laugh without reservation.
Whispers in the night, his sister escapes
to some other house, smell of coal dust
a hearth warmer than ice storms
not that indifferent stare from an older brother.
The long way out of childhood.
Wild wind circles the years
down three generations without God.
Some stories won’t yield
to any new ending. A boy gone dead
his children out to pasture
his breath held in so long no one remembers
his voice or laughter or even anger.
Winnowing the long hay past each
outstretched hand, he watches
as his children blow free
without warm gingerbread or red wine.
Bless this house, chaff and straw.
Bless this old old story.
appeared in California Quarterly