©Poems of R.F.Mueller- Other Times, Other Thoughts
OLD MAN TO HIMSELF
Old man, what were you thinking of,
Walking through your woods
In the halflight of that snowy day?
Pausing here and there to crane up at the
Great trunks of elm, your voice indistinctly
Rising and falling in the whitened air,
It's plain you never intended that I hear.
Yet ever since I've wondered what prompted
Those passionate mutterings into the wind
Were you that day zealously planning
To turn those trees into just so much barn timber
Or board feet at the mill?
Maybe you were simply despairing of the world
For moving further each year from that
Tough heartwood you'd sweated over as a boy.
Or is it possible you were celebrating those old elms
For standing tall against the march of all those years,
Much as I do these oaks and hickories I walk under here
Then I watched you from the standoff
Province of my teen-age world,
From where my fading boot tracks
Would never intersect your own.
There by the fringing pond reeds and
Frozen muskrat domes
I saw you stride into a Sunday blizzard's eye,
Spooling words to what you thought were only trees,
Beneath that shearing winter sky, a short forty years ago.
It will strike some readers that there is a double meaning in this poem. Like a number of others, it faithfully details an actual experience. The location, perhaps five miles from our home, was at the site of a small marshy pond along-and part of- the course of the Manitowoc River ( see previous ). The elms referred to are American (Ulmus americana), that not long after probably fell victim to Dutch Elm Disease (Ophiostoma ulmi), as many others in that region did.