The grandfather was seventy, with brown red hair
circling a bald spot, round Dutch face, and eyes
that twinkled like sun on running water. The boy
and the old man walked the fields together.
They picked stones and threw them on a stoneboat.
They went after the cows. They planted corn
rolled in tar and flour to discourage the crows.
They hoed the corn in season. The crows flew
cawing overhead. “Look at our black chickens,”
the grandfather said.
When the old man died
the boy often dreamed he was alive again,
and awaking cried, knowing him gone.
Long years afterward the boy, grown man, had forgotten
the early years, until at the village store
he heard the hunters talking, and one mentioned
the grandfather. “Never would let us shoot a crow,”
the hunter said. “Called ‘em his chickens.”
And the years swung back over the boy.
A teacher, Henry Adams said, affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
This poem, by Arboretum founder Fred Lape, focuses on memories of a boy and his grandfather. The grandfather is remembered vividly, “brown red hair / circling a bald spot, round Dutch face, and eyes / that twinkled like sun on running water.”
So too are those moments they shared and those simple lessons: herding cows, clearing fields, preparing corn for planting, hoeing the corn. The grandfather casually remarks that he regards crows as “our black chickens.”
Long after the grandfather’s death, the boy, now an adult, overhears a remark about his grandfather’s odd affinity for crows, and the years come flooding back – replete with a lesson?
- Nolan Marciniec