Leaving the Country House to the Landlord, Five Years Later

Outside, the landlord undertakes the landscape
while he waits. He is ignoble
in his T-shirt, jiggles
a little above the taut power
of his mower.

But he gets things done.
When he puts his chain saw once
into our shade tree, it twists and falls.
Its branches look up startled
from the ground.

Inside, I curse him for coming.
It is in the dining room.
Blank walls undo the voice of my anger;
you look up from naming boxes
and shrug.

Behind you a hook has left
a hole open like a mouth.
I half see it, the way, taking out
boxes, I notice your writing thin as tendril
and misspelled.

His family drives in.
The car is in love with size,
wanders into the front lawn by our truck
and stops: its chrome grille tips and grins.
There’s the big wife

who came at supper once when light was amber
on our table and our books lay
behind glass in another room and the cats
riffled their bright fur, telling us how
she’d fix the place.

The children watched her flat voice hang
in the air. It was as if they were dreaming
she was there, they were so awed.
Closing a door on upside-down dining chairs,
I, too, am dreaming.

And the dream goes on. It will not stop; I can’t awaken.
We are still moving out of the old cape.
In the front yard another tree
has foundered. It leans on one side like
an exhausted fish.

The family outside seems underwater,
moving onto the floor of the new space.
Slowly, the boyfriend is bumping the strange, angry
saw against a branch. Blue smoke blooms
and rises.

The daughter is pleased—her sane
skin wavers in the light. The wife
is too big. In a kinder dream
she might lift slowly upward
carrying her clear

modern window planned for the upstairs
far beyond the upstairs. But here
she just remains too big
and does not budge from earth.
Meanwhile, the landlord

judges in his baseball cap the calves
of the boy, how well they know
a motor. He is at home
with enterprise and things that go,
and when he shouts

commands that drift sleepy as bubbles,
inaudible above the raging saw,
we both can hear them say:
“You are awake. And what you’ve dreamed
are your five gentle years.”

-Wesley McNair