I lie in a bedroom in a house


that was built in 1862, we were told—


the two windows still facing east


into the bright daily reveille of the sun.

The early birds are chirping,


and I think of those who have slept here before,


the family we bought the house from—


the five Hendersons—

and the engineer they told us about


who lived here alone before them,


the one who built onto the back


of the house a large glassy room with wood beams.

I have an old photograph of the house


in black and white, a few small trees,


and a curved dirt driveway,


but I do not know who lived here then.

So I go back to the Civil War


and to the farmer who built the house


and the rough stone walls


that encompass the house and run up into the woods,

he who mounted his thin wife in this room,


while the war raged to the south,


with the strength of a dairyman


or with the tenderness of a dairyman

or with both, alternating back and forth


so as to give his wife much pleasure


and possibly to call a son down to earth


to help with the cows and take over the little farm

when he no longer had the strength


after all the days and nights of toil and prayer—


the sun breaking over the horizon


and into these same windows

to light the same bed-space where I lie


with nothing to farm,


the dead farmer and his dead wife for company,


feeling better and worse by turns.