Maple Syrup

by Donald Hall (adaption)

August, goldenrod blowing, we walk
into the graveyard, to find
my grandfather’s grave. Ten years ago
I came here last, bringing
marigolds from the round garden
outside the kitchen.

I didn’t know you then.
Back at the house
where no one lives, we potter
and explore the back chamber
where everything comes to rest: spinning wheels,
pretty boxes, quilts,
bottles, books, albums of postcards.

Then with a flashlight we descend
firm steps to the root cellar – black,
cobwebby, huge,
with dirt floors and fieldstone walls,
and above the walls, holding the hewn sills of the house, enormous
granite foundation stones.

Past the empty bins
for squash, apples, carrots, and potatoes,
we discover the shelves for canning, a few
pale pints
of tomato left, and – what
is this? – syrup, maple syrup
in a quart jar, syrup
my grandfather made twenty-five
years ago
for the last time.

we take my grandfather’s last
quart of syrup
upstairs, holding it gingerly,
and we wash off twenty-five years
of dirt, and we pull
and pry the lid up, cutting the stiff,
dried rubber gasket, and dip our fingers
in, you and I both, and taste
the sweetness, you for the first time,
the sweetness preserved, of a dead man
in his kitchen.