breaking fast

Before the crow, before the dun dust begins to stir...

He rises, slowly, before the sun,
    Before the crow,
  Before the dun dust begins to stir
      At the pane of his splintering,
    Breath-aching bedroom window,
As sealed as a sieve
    Until he wakes it open.
  Darkness doesn’t knock,
      As it comes and comes often,
  Because he’s taken to welcoming it in;
    He pulls, again, a breakfast chair for it
In his spartan-hearted kitchen.
    Not for the give-in, oh no,
  But to hold a long look
      And a candid conversation,
  As an honest tongue might have
    With a broken-handled hoe.
His weariness begs the company,
    While his why of it is ever-want to know:
  For the toil he puts into each
      Overworked row,
  Callus on blister, year on dirty tear,
    Should amount to far more
Than a Mason jar so clinkless
    With pinched-hard pennies
  And a dollar too-dear.
      Though quietly thankless,
  His sweat-brow’s not thinkless,
    And winces of whim swing him low
Every time the tired plough-horse whinnies.
    Yet to sit so near, two plates on the wood—
  To stare into what he hasn’t
      While breaking fast with what he has
  Isn’t to lament, though thrash he could,
    Or to court the unbidden torture of it;
But to treat it as well as he’d wish to be treated
    By the fortune of hope it’s hidden
  So deeply within a well-meaning life
      Scar-furrowed by it all.
  Again and again and again
    And, this still-darksome dawn, once more
He pushes back his rack-legged chair,
    Hats his crown with colorless flair,
  And, spurs lifted from a loose hook on the wall,
      Turns every toe toward the door—
  Despair, disappearingly,
    Left sitting there.

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