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POETRY I BY ANITA PLUMMER THE LOST HUNTER Dedicated to Melvin What did you get for growing old? The deer hunters go to the woods without you. The grass is cut by neighbors. The old truck is up on blocks, and the screen door off its hinges. The garden has no squash, or peas, beans or potatoes; Only weeds that don’t flower. Those prize watermelon seeds would grow, If you could get out there and plant them. Knees and hips: bones frozen to canes and walkers. Eyes and ears: function vanishing in a thick, binding jungle of stimulation. Lost hair, crooked fingers, and wrinkled skin: distinction, even privilege, Slaps on the back of accomplishment. But it was the able body that worked the fingers to the bone. The able body that drove the wheel of accomplishment. The able body that chopped the trees and bore the babies. The able body that died one day, When the sun rose and life went on breathing. BARNS BROTHERS BIRDS Today my job at the nursing home ended The residents will wait for me, ask Where is she, the other one? Reasons, like names, drift away, From minds that know faces, voices, touch of warm hands. I couldn’t tell them: my pay was cut My work increased, My loss greater than theirs. I said, I will miss you, Much longer than today. A package came in the mail, All the way from Michigan, my brother Harry, What did he send? Lighter than garden produce, or a bag of grain. I pulled off wrapping; there was a letter. Hi. The enclosed bird house is built by me, Your big brother, from siding I salvaged from the barn. I thought I should do something for all my brothers and Sisters for a little remembrance. He had painted the bird house red, like the barn, before the termites Had eaten our happy memories: Of basketball games on the rough cement floor, Kittens found in the hayloft, Cows shoving their mouths into silage, Freshly forked into their manger, Their woeful call to a calf just taken from them, Their breath, a cloud of steam, on cold winter days. Now the barn is gone. Texas birds circle my barn house. ANITA PLUMMER lives and writes in Texas. Naomi Shihab Nye OCTOBER 21, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17