Legend

By JOHN FREEMAN

My father’s father 
rode the rails west
into Grass Valley
and buried three
children in the
shadow of a tree that
spread its arms
around his bakery.

Cold nights he saw
stars he didn’t know
existed, and heard
wild animals howling
with a loneliness he
did know.
His wife was dead. Every
morning he woke

to the bread and 
chill, horses snuffling
in the dark. He had
starved before,
in Canada, a winter
so ragged it killed
his dog, and this grief
was that feeling,
shifted north into
his chest.

A soul is not a 
diamond pressed
down into something
hard like rock,
but rather, the word
my father’s father
said to himself on
those too-cold
California nights when all
he could see was
the work ahead of him,
the dead behind—
her name
He’d say her name.

John Freeman’s most recent book is Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. He is the editor of Freeman’s, a new biannual literary journal.

[Purchase your copy of Issue 10 here.]

Legend

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