I have been over the water
and lived there all alone.
– William Stafford (“Looking Across the River”)
Perhaps it was Ike Clark, decades
after he stepped off the train
in Exeter from Tennessee,
barefoot in bibs looking for work—
or the shack he shared with goats
and chickens, roosters crowing
in the citrus grove he earned.
I never saw a woman, though
he had grandkids that sometimes
waited with us at the stop sign
for the school bus, where he’d pass
early on his way home, alone
in his green, ‘52 Chevy heaped
with vegetables from the alley
behind the red brick Safeway
to feed his menagerie, horse, pigs
and a milk cow in makeshift pens
you could barely see from the road.
Millionaire hermit, he may as well
lived across the river, his flock
of guinea sentries scratching
beneath his orange trees,
the hollow and empty sounds
of peacocks crying at dawn.