There is a room, and inside the room
two men are sitting side
by side in a pair of stuffed chairs.
I see the backs of the chairs, but a slip
of light beneath them lets me see
four heavy shoes in the front
and two heads, one bald and one gray, above.
I believe they are serious motionless men,
facing a wall with a small window.
One could be my great-grandfather,
dead for seventy years, and the other
could be his father who voted both times
for Lincoln. A window, a single pane
inside a hinged frame, is swung
open in a high up corner
of the wall, and a plank of level light
is reaching through the square. The room
is a sizable room, and I have entered
from another room—perhaps I’m still
a figure standing in the doorway.
I don’t remember everything,
but I am breathing there and the room
is warm from an old iron stove
whose pipe runs crookedly
through another wall. In front of the men
is a table, maybe made from a crate.
That is where, I remember now, I left
the book I had been reading, and now
I see it—Progress?—is the one-word
question running down its spine.
The men are staring at the book,
and I suppose they’ve wondered, too,
because they made the room and the window;
in the hill behind the house they dug
the root cellar and lined it with stone.
The window is high to catch the light
as soon as the sun comes over the hill,
and the house is there because of the hill.
Beside the house is a bottom patch—
my father plowed it with a mule.
And by these signs is how I know
I’ve been asleep. I’ve been to the room
with two old men inside, and a stove,
and a book; and a light, before it tilts
to flood the room, is still a stream
trickling through the window,
and the window, God knows why, is swung
into the room like an open gate.
The room of the time before my time
was hewn and hammered together from sleep;
but a glimpse of some other time was left.
I saw it from the doorway where
I stood as solemn as a tree,
as if I were growing in the dream.