In the woods back of Caldwell House, I rest
on a mossy root, after moving a snail
big as a half dollar. When the government
outlined this park, it let Hiram Caldwell and others
stay for a time in this valley rich with elk and apples.
The snail hasn’t moved from where I set it.
Around the school and church, the past
is so heavy it’s hard to stand upright.
A home place gawked at by people tucking
little dogs under their arms as they climb
the stairs, who were warned there was no
phone service and came anyway.
A boy venturing up my trail
points toward me and asks
his grandpa,Who’s that? A ghost,
I want to hiss, don’t ever forget me.
Yesterday’s rain seeps into my clothes.
I will bring the stains of this place home.
It is my grandfather’s birthday.
He would have thrived in Cataloochee,
could have hewn the yellow poplar
of the Caldwell beadboard, hauled doors
and windows over the mountain like he hauled
them to his patch of red Florida clay.
It’s easy to guess what he would have said
to the government man who wanted him to sell.
Harder to know what he’d say to me,
perched on moss the government set aside
so I can come and listen to ghosts,
while a snail climbs away over a leaf.
Kelly Lenox is the author of The Brightest Rock (May 2017). Her poems and translations appear in Still: The Journal, Raven Chronicles, Faultline, The Wide Shore, RHINO, Summerset Review, Switched-on Gutenberg, and elsewhere. Translations also appear in Voice in the Body (Ljubljana: Litterae Slovenicae, 2006) and Six Slovenian Poets (Lancaster, U.K.: Arc Publications, 2006). She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and works as a science writer and editor for the National Institutes of Health. (www.kellylenox.com)