Last night’s rain brought down
needles from the big pine,
quilting the path to the river,
whose heavy breathing is not so much
like music—more like wind
rasping in the aspens.
Leaves glitter with river light—
the air sweet from pine pitch.
Patches of hillside orange
flare and smear on the current
blended with blue afternoon.
A kingfisher chitters upstream
toward the deeper tones of evening.
Across the river, in a hemlock snag,
a pair of cedar waxwings loop
back and forth to feed on mayflies,
whose wings are flakes of light
rising and falling over the river.
He came to me on one of those mild,
late winter days, my gloved hands gripped
on a hoe handle handed down from someone—
Aunt Philomena, it might have been,
or Ted Strickler, both gardeners, both gone.
Sweating, I’d flung my jacket on a limb
of the plum tree, went on breaking clods
with the nicked hoe blade until I was stopped
by the odor of cinnamon and pine.
I’d backed into the rosemary bush,
releasing its tang, releasing too my father.
He appeared as he had in his last year—
cheeks papery, ashen, eyes dull, thin scruff
of beard no longer white but yellow.
He told me he was okay, said I needn’t worry
or feel sorry. And just as when he lived,
having lost by then his sense of taste and smell,
he laughed, went on and on about how much
he loved my potato wedges—salted, roasted
with rosemary, daubed lavishly, as always,
despite my frown, with mayonnaise.
Edward Harkness is author of Saying the Necessary and Beautiful Passing Lives, both from Pleasure Boat Studio Press. His most recent chapbook, Ice Children, was published by Split Lip Press in 2014. He lives in Shoreline, Washington.