HELEN E. RILLING
Farmer's daughter--Farmer's wife
Illinois Senior Poet Laureate 2004
THE LAST TRIP HOME
Some unknown hand upon my heartstrings sends me
hastening back to find my place of birth.
Around the wooded bend the narrow lane
leads me across a rattly bridge to home.
Decrepit from its many years the old barn leans.
Sheds at either end fold in upon themselves like
ragged pages of open books left in the rain.
Silvered boards are warped from sunshine and midnight dew.
Pigeons eye me warily in the domeless silo,
coo loudly, thrust upward and fly back from where they came.
Spiraled lightning rods pierce the blue sky. I recall old
memories and the salesman and his shiny rig.
He'd stayed overnight for mother's apple dumplings;
slept in hired-hands room with lanky Kentucky lads.
A small heater warmed the upstairs room where
weak-springed beds were topped with straw-filled mattresses.
Loose floor boards curl up. Orange rust coats a long forgotten
pocketknife hidden by brown cobwebs. My secret place.
Downstairs empty rooms echo my footsteps;
wallpaper hangs curling like cabbage leaves. Sunlight
streams in paneless windows, warms the bedroom floor.
Like a gentle hand, soft breezes swing the door open.
I expect to see my mother step inside,
chide me for chores undone--to stop dreaming.
Sadly I return the hollow shell that was my childhood home
to the owls and the old barn to the birds and varmints there-
Moisture on my cheeks isn't April's raindrops;
it's warm tears from a tender final farewell.
Helen E. Rilling