The Clerestory Podcast S1 E25

The Oklahoma Tenant Farmer and Me
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It takes 650 steps to walk the perimeter. 
Not the full perimeter, but just the one I walk. 
Sometimes it takes 725 steps and sometimes 645.
Depending on my stride, a corner cut, or my hundred
deep distractions. And sometimes far less when I lose count. 
I cover the same ground, but as we’ve come to know, things 
change. The world shifts us gently. Then out of nowhere 
we’re rocked off our pedestals. It’s the world that’s in control, 
not us. Perhaps it has to do with sunspots, air pressure or some 
planet now in retrograde. Or us. And as much as we prepare, 
we’re never prepared for what comes next.

We two have lived together with this land but
were never comfortable with “Ownership.” 
We’re transients, like the Saxtons (1820s). 
We’re names on a page scrolling from past to future. 
Until the world decides on a major renovation.

I usually don’t climb the hill behind us called
Illinois Mountain by the locals, the wooded rise that 
leads to a rocky ridge. Named that in the long time 
long ago by someone who took the secret with them. 
Like we will do someday we hope is not today.

I’ve searched for the word 
that describes our presence here:
custodian (a little too middle school) 
concierge (a little too French farce) 
keeper (too zoo oppressive) 
overseer (no, for too many reasons) 
agent (too snarky Hollywood) 
guardian (too Marvel Comics) 
watchman (nothing with “man” and too back-alley noir) 
warden (too Barchester) 
steward (good but everyone will think it’s our name) 
ostiary (who knows this anymore?) 
Perhaps a good fit. We curate here. 
Maintain, restore, reusing the old; replacing not with flossy 
but with what the house agrees with. 


I walk the perimeter a couple times a week. Counting steps
but always losing count halfway. Because of that leaf 
or this stone. This stone, this one.
Pushed along by a passing glacier or
ascended from our molten core. Vomited up 
from inner belly rumblings. Catching a lift from a 
meteor taxi in a great stone shower. 
A lost memory now, the past seeps back
underground. I stoop to pick you up 
and the perimeter walk moves on.
In silence. Still pebbles run deep.
The stone warms in my hand. 
Warmth from body heat or from the 
remnants of lava dreams. Unknown.
And then along the way, we find a place 
to stop. A mutual agreement.
I set the stone down at a place of trust, familiar but new.
And there you’ll stay until Nature or another one, the one 
who isn’t me takes it on another world-class whirl-wind tour.
 A circle of memory.

The stone shifts its position in the crusty ether. 
The land is altered. I’ve been revised. Returned. 
To walk the new perimeter tomorrow.

Featured photograph by Richard Gaston.

Laurence Carr lives and writes in New York’s Hudson Valley. His poetry collections include Paradise Loft, Threnodies, and The Wytheport Tales and a novel Pancake Hollow Primer. He publishes the online magazine, Lightwood.

Discover more from Laurence Carr.