Once Occupied

The old man who used to own the house
is driven up by his niece
in a car with Wyoming plates.
It stops at the end of the drive.

They had probably come up just to see,
and then, me out on the deck
getting water to the spruce and daylilies
along the lines he had laid
even then, in his nineties.

We heard his wife had died,
but he didn’t mention her:
it was for the niece, to show her the view
and the tile and the wisteria,
to talk about the wild plum, the tame plum,
the peaches big as his fist,
the wrinkles in the road as deep as his.

He said when the house was new
the driveway was a solid piece of rock.

I pointed out how the lilacs
hadn’t bloomed this year and he nodded,
how the cicadas were bad,
how the wasps had left their paper nest.
I had taken it down,
afraid they would reclaim it,
though they hadn’t bothered us —
just flew back and forth along the deck
(he said I put those railings in).

We sat on the porch swing smiling,
time gone and the satisfaction of it,
the rings of the wasp nest
still white as death on the wall.

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