from "Thirty-Eight Sonnets from Jimmie Walker Swamp"
When I was young, in Britain, I lived in a stone house
five hundred years old. Water condensed on the bedroom
walls. I slept with a hot water bottle. The only
heat came from a coal fire, whose chimney was cleaned
by an old-time chimney sweep. But in the backyard
a Roman villa gradually came to light, tile floors with blue
decoration. A skeletal cat emerged from the clay too,
Roman or more recent I couldn't know. It fired my thoughts
to rest atop a midden of old lives, so that when I came
to North America, the dirt seemed clean and uninvolved.
I sensed no ghosts in the wilderness. I felt thin, and still
do, like a child in a home for waifs, stripped of all
my stories. So one day I threw a small handful of bones
and coins into a field nearby, to be some other kid's history.
from Standing Wave (2005) by Robert Allen