Scavenging the Wall

By R. T. Smith b. 1947
When fall brought the graders to Atlas Road,
I drove through gray dust thick as a battle
and saw the ditch freshly scattered with   gravel.

Leveling, shaving on the bevel, the blade
and fanged scraper had summoned sleepers—
limestone loaves and blue slate, skulls of quartz

not even early freeze had roused. Some rocks
were large as buckets, others just a scone
tumbled up and into light the first time

in ages. Loose, sharp, they were a hazard
to anyone passing. So I gathered
what I could, scooped them into the bed

and trucked my freight away under birdsong
in my own life's autumn. I was eager
to add to the snaggled wall bordering

my single acre, to be safe, to be still
and watch the planet's purposeful turning
behind a cairn of roughly balanced stones.

Uprooted, scarred, weather-gray of bones,
I love their old smell, the familiar unknown.
To be sure this time I know where I belong

I have brought, at last, the vagrant road home.

Source: Poetry (December 2000).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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December 2000
 R. T. Smith


Poet R.T. (Rod) Smith was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Georgia and North Carolina. He earned a BA in philosophy from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and an MA in English from Appalachian State University. His collections of poetry include From the High Dive (1983), The Cardinal Heart (1991), Hunter-Gatherer (1996), Trespasser: Poems (1996), Split the Lark: Selected Poems (1999), Messenger (2001), Brightwood . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Midlife, Landscapes & Pastorals, Nature, Home Life, Relationships, Fall

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Alliteration, Consonance, Pastoral, Metaphor, Mixed

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