The Back Forty ~ Laurie Klein


I think about things, while walking—
like the number forty:

Pat Tillman’s retired red jersey
or winks in a power nap,
the Bible’s wilderness days of temptation,
direct dial code for Romania,
full-time work, the days of Lent,

not to mention the negative point
where Fahrenheit matches Celsius,

or Venus in retrograde,
and the Nebra Sky Disk—forty perforations
rimming a Bronze Age timepiece, as if
the ancients wearied of notching sticks
to reckon the wonder of each solar year,

and the fetus, turning, in watery silence,

Noah, bending before the rain
and later, one green sprig in a beak,

or, egg to old age, the life spans
of Monarchs, drones, those fruit flies
barnstorming the bowl of peaches,

and what about forty years
of sandals slapping the Sinai sands,
and skybread, and walking out Torah,

or the average life of the lumbering hippo
and Asian elephant, the lion
and bare-eyed cockatoo?—

and now, four decades for us, equally
wild, savory, perilous, graced.