Two Poems

Retaining Wall

A low stone-and-mortar wall
the mountain’s tumble.
          Creepers, ferns, vines
ruffle over, checked
          in their waterfall rush
to the valley. 
          The road hairpins,
hugs the wall.
          Motorists hunch,
eyes ahead,
          ply accelerators
and brakes,
          too busy to notice
the stony hill,
          the eggshell irony
of a wall.


My Father-in-law’s Map

His geological map
  of the state of Georgia
is as true in my house
  in Milwaukee
as it was in his office
  in Macon.

Perhaps a new
  highway has blasted
its path through old
  stone; maybe
a mine has depleted
  its mineral deposits;

but the rock is still there.
  The fault line still
extends its pressure-caused
  pockets of precious
and semi-precious
  minerals and ores.

It’s all there, marked
  in topographic detail.
Surface features may change,
  but stone doesn’t—
not for a long,
  long time.

Which is why, perhaps,
  he loved it
and why, perhaps,
  we hang a mine operator’s
map on the cement
  wall of our basement

to remember him pointing
  out kaolin deposits,
and to sleep peacefully,
  though far from him,
above our thick,
  midwestern limestone.

—Sheryl Slocum, Milwaukee, WI