Verticality

I remember an old neighbour
Who after his wife passed on
Sat for years in an empty porch
Staring straight ahead at the sky
Unblackening and blackening
In the far horizon

By the hanging, rusted lantern
Smudged with old soot he was
Like a cast of fading bronze
His hands alone with any
Semblance of life: bent,

Gnarled inertness, a spent yet
Alert quality where exhaustion, turmoil,
Waiting seemed to have collected, as if they
Doubted permanence of separation
Holding out for a homecoming
They knew would not let them down

Studying them as they lay in yours
Was a dizzying experience — the
Kind you got poring down a well,
One of those whose water level
Sank low into the ground of unknown

Drop where over rough, weary stones
You could see labour and an old
Life then discovered in the round
Orifice of stoicism a
Star, maybe two, that shines on for the
Familiar bucket, or smile

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