What the young will remember, huddled
like toadstools in this leaning grove of adults,
is the great uncle’s whistled s, his mouth
translated to flute and eyes rheumy
with the overflowing tears of the old.
They will listen to herky-jerk stories,
and some will see the couple squeeze
one hand into the other’s. They will stun
to hear that their grandfather—now frail
in his sweater and jut of knee-bones,
like washing laid over a wooden chair—
once scaled a bridge to paint his name
and hers above a spring-swollen river.
They will marvel at his brashness
and romance. He will nod, and remember
how pocked and cold the bridge’s concrete was,
like the flank of some dead beast, and how
he clutched in his teeth the hard resin
handle of the paintbrush while he climbed,
its wet bristles fisted with deep red and
dripping like the bleeding heart of his youth.
Photo by James Stanley