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Sylvan History

By Ethan Paquin

Camera got my grandfather in it – summery date-stamped

August stroll with my tiny daughter. Just one still. Cupola’s

top left, weathervane obscured by backgrounded pines, sky

muted, can’t tell whether it was really gray or blue, he’s got

on his trademark bunnet and a short-sleeved brown shirt,

gray khakis a little hiked-up. Up the cart path he walks,

heading right, turning a corner, almost off the picture and

into a grove hinted-at by a branch of maple that juts out.

Sunflowers through a workshop window, composition’s

middle and off to the left, can be seen. Only stark colors

in the entire photo, and just a clip of them. This taste is

all there is left. He’s in a bed in another state and dying

and though his back’s turned to us one can tell he walks

both knowing the walk’s nearly over, cart path to front

door nearly crested, and defying it. His left hand’s not

merely holding my daughter’s, one can see it guiding

nearly pulling her fresh legs up a strange incline.

I’m going to show you a place he calmly expresses or

seems to but whereas I’ll forever from the frame from

the photograph disappear, you’ll know your duty – walk

and love the walk, past the maples atop dew-cool grass

and near the sunflowers which at any rate will endure.

ETHAN PAQUIN returns to Buffalo as the guest of The Write Thing Reading Series at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Academic Commons, Main Building at Medaille College, 18 Agassiz Circle. The founder of literary journal Slope, he is the author of five books of poems including Cloud vs. Cloud” (Ahsahta Press) in which this poem originally appeared. A former associate professor at Medaille, he teaches at his alma mater, Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.