The dead do not come riding dark horses up out of the arroyo.
They do not arrive in dust grey-shrouded singing the old songs.
No, they arrive like turnips pulled winter-burned and cold from the soil.
They lie at your feet, worm-riddled, creased with dirt in the furrows,
fallen peasants left behind in the caterpillar treads of tanks.
And the rags left on the dump by Mandelstam, the holes in the snow by the aspens.
You kneel by the turnips and plead forgiveness; beg the cold winds abate,
that the green world come back, that every seed left dying come again to life.
The stories they told you as a child are rocks in your skull.
That tiny girl in the winter ditch weeping as the logging trucks rolled by.
Her dress was pale as her mother’s eyes.
You lie in the long unwinding, wet with worm casts, your tongue burned by salt.
It will take more years than you remember to warm their small hands.
Patrick Lane has been publishing poetry since 1963. He lives on Vancouver Island with his wife, the poet, Lorna Crozier, and their cat, Basho, two Red-Eared Slider turtles, sixty fish, and a huge garden. Lane has published widely around the world for fifty years and is the author of over thirty books of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane was published in 2012 from Harbour Publishing. He is currently working on a new collection of poetry; the poems presented here being part of that book to come.