In “Ladder Left Leaning”, I attempt to write in the voice of a youngster, say 8 or 10 years old instead of writing about childhood experiences from an adult perspective. I have written a number of poems in this way to explore common moral questions that this age begins to ask itself.
Ladder Left Leaning
In the night there was a squabble of wind.
It rattled Granddaddy too,
A bit of tin fluttering on the barn roof.
As it was Saturday morning,
he said we’d nail it down to silence again.
A rusty paint pail dangled from his arm.
I carried the hammer on my shoulder
with both hands—we could fix most anything.
We kicked up dew-lazy dust,
whistled the dogs from their casual kingdom,
and headed toward the far barn.
I asked why a roof would want to fly off.
Settling the ladder in the earth,
he said there’s a straining
in all things, a need to dream.
He took the hammer, picked a few
brights from the bucket,
and began climbing the wood rungs.
He banged the tin to roof again,
hammered it hard as a thunderstorm,
he was arguing with angels.
I saw his overalls come down
the ladder, boots swearing at each rung,
the claw hammer dropped dead to earth
and dented it.
He held his thumb in a white fist,
wound his red kerchief
and sputtered a strange language into it.
His face was a furrowed field
and like a dust devil, he headed for the house.
The dogs gathered after him,
eager to tell their version.
Granddaddy was getting smaller—
the ladder left leaning—
and I could see the dogs tangling with him.
Butterflies dared tease and tag under it.
I spat on the hammer and wiped it clean
and shaded the sun with my hand to squint
toward pastured clouds, then let my eyes
climb down to the rusty nest in the bucket.
I left the ladder to keep watch.
© 2018 Frederick Wilbur
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