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.