In the Shadow of the Sun

When I knew him, my grandfather prayed
with his body, feeding cattle
or training a horse, holding to the promise
that all this is momentary, a shred
of the work and glory ahead: "Live difficult,"
he said, then laughed. "It won't last long."
His faith glittered like salmon
in a silted stream. He waited for decades
in field where labor was patience, one way
of fighting the wars of want
that warped the temporal sensorium
where he was held like a falcon
in a gunny sack currents of sky,
his blood told him, were out there.

He stood his distance from from the world,
as meek and virile as Moses, watching over
young children learning by touch the sharp
edges, always wanting games with easier rules,
planning fun till the fun ran out, then starting
over, older, with less room. Each time
with less room, a game no one chose
getting tighter. He did not mind that they laughed
at him, my grandfather and his peculiar gait,
his old way of being in no hurry living
as he did amid life vaster than Earth, visions
sheering through the brevity of flesh with unerring
trajectories that spoke to him of Light
the sun blocked with its puny burning.

Winner of Ensign magazine's Annual Poetry Prize


Copyright 1988 Michael L. Umphrey
from The Breaking Edge: Poems by Michael Umphrey
published by the University of Montana

Winner of the Merriam-Frontier Award

back to Michael L. Umphrey