A Shared Space

in memory of Marie Melson

She was already old from the first
I knew her, and though I was a child,

I had an oldness in me too,
which neither of us saw the use

in mentioning, as together we sat
in a swing beneath a century-old oak.

Her memories, when she spoke them,
went back up hollows and logging roads,

along fields gone back to woods,
and near to springs I could almost taste.

As a people—elder and child—
our kind, even then, was on the way out,

fewer by few each season,
as anything nearing its absence

has to settle on being enough
and only itself in the time remaining.

Being the last child of twenty,
she was the last child still here,

part way through her eighth decade
with more years still to come.

She’s gone now, and I’m near middle age,
and the oldness she spoke to inside me

listens sometimes to how she
stared off to a place beyond the fence

and went teary-eyed with remembering.
We didn’t always say anything

but sometimes sat inside a silence,
a kind of eternity I think we both

understood and felt the presence of
and grew calm in the waiting for

because each in the other
had already heard it speaking;

and even now, beneath these words,
a spring is flowing—I hear it—

and she turns to me and smiles
and pats the empty space between us

to say there’s nothing now between us.

Jeff Hardin is the author of Fall Sanctuary, recipient of the Nicholas Roerich Prize, and Notes for a Praise Book, selected by Toi Derricotte for the Jacar Press Book Award, as well as Restoring the Narrative and Small Revolution. His poems have been published in The New Republic, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Hotel Amerika, Southern Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, Tennessee.

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