by Stephen Page
I wake up late in the morning, ten o’clock,
to the shouts of children in the living
room. I feel like sleeping more, but stir and robe
myself to stumble to the kitchen to pour
my first cup of coffee. The smell is rich
as bramble, but before I can sip into
lucidity the screams of my three-year-old
grandchild and four of her friends headache me to
shower where I wash away last night’s dream.
I dress and backpack and ready to tramp
to the Wood to find the Myth, but my wife,
who is watching the kids, is called
by the capataz to come look at the cows,
so she asks me to babysit until she returns.
I never asked to be a grandfather, nor responsibly
a father, but here I am, married to a woman
I love, a widow, a mother whose daughter
has children: I am a grandfather by default.
We watch a Disney movie and sing and march
around the coffee table—I intervening when
their tags becomes shoves: I bore quickly.
My wife enters the back door and I bolt out
the front, not making three strides across the lawn
before she yells and asks that I start the asado
for her daughter and son-in-law who will arrive
in three hours. I glance at the mottled
trees at the edge of the Wood, realizing how easy
it would be to just say ‘no’, to go to my real work,
Myth finding, but I set my backpack down on a white
wooden bench and set fire to the kindling.
Four hours later, full of meats, wine,
and exhaustion from bending over a grill,
I drink a double espresso and ready myself to hike
alone, restart my day, discover truths, but
my oldest grandchild grasps my hand and pleads
“please, take me to pool, show me chickens,
walk me,” her lake eyes large as sky.
I walk with her, show her the covered pool,
explain to her that it is too late in the year
to swim, too cold; walk past the reddening
lawn oak, take her to the hen house, find a fresh
egg still warm for her to carry back to her mother.
It is exceptionally cold this morning for autumn;
a tenuous fog clings to the frost.
I don corduroys, a wool jacket, a belt knife
and ready myself for adventure—Indian
fighting, puma killing; but today
my youngest grandchild clasps my hand.
I lift her and step outside the kitchen
door. She is one and walks well already
but I have to carry her because the collies
frighten her: they are mountainous dragons
with fire-wet tongues and hot breath
and teeth like jagged sun-bleached rocks.
She is armored in full-body polar fleece
and peers through the visor with wood-green
eyes and sees that the collies lead us
through the mist guarding us from trees;
she smiles down at them from her throne
but will not allow me to set her upon
her booted feet as we head toward
the chickens, or the “kaw-kaws” as she has named
them as early as this morning’s breakfast.
There are no fresh eggs in the coop; her eyes
worry, and I assume a ranch-hand bandit
must have robbed them, but as I step out
of the gate I notice a possum print
in the mud. The mist has lifted
and the sun burnt off most of the frost
so we journey around the yard, I showing
her how to smell the sharp-scented jacaranda
leaves, to touch and name the autumn
flowers, to discern the silhouette
of mockingbird from ratbird;
her weight, her weight, strengthening my arms.
Stephen Page is the author of A Ranch Bordering the Salty River.