The Pasture Ponds

By John Bargowski

Featured art by Kieran Osborn

You know the spot, that sharp left
off the county road to Hope

that passes the roadside shrine her
classmates built to our youngest,

the blank stones that mark the old
Presbyterian graveyard,

then on past the last rusted knob
of safety rail

where a graveled lane cuts through
swampy woods.

The pair of wood drake decoys
Hubert anchored to the bottom

riding out every weather on the big pond,
the splotch of white on their sides

that catches in our high beams
as we round the curve.

The twiggy wrack of alder and sumac
clipping the sideviews

as we pass through streaks of moonlight
burnishing the shields

on the skeletoned ruins of our friend’s
red Massey Ferg.

A place we’ve gone to many times
trying to nudge the season ahead,

we crack open the side window, crank
the heater up a couple notches,

sit with the lights clicked shut, side
by side in the front seat,

strain for the first callers crawled free
from March mud, the hyla crucifer,

no bigger than a fingertip, noted in our
dog-eared Peterson’s for shrill voices

that rise then fallm and those dark little crosses
they carry on their backs.

Originally published in NOR 27

John Bargowski is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and New Jersey Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Prairie SchoonerAlaska Quarterly ReviewNew LettersPoetry, and Ploughshares, among other publications. His book Driving West on the Pulaski Skyway was selected by Paul Mariani for the Bordighera Prize and published in 2012.

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