On the Spring Creek Road
The cat slept nights, Ernest too
when he could. More often he prowled.
He roamed through the shingled house
and tested his alarms, set
a rifle triggered by his step,
pointing at the spring.
He strung tin cans like beads
along the wire to warn the dead
and burnt his oil lamp low.
Smells of grease and boiled coffee
haunted his two bare rooms,
and bowls of curdled cream circled
the rug, its coils tight as snails.
No matter how he watched,
on black nights they found his door.
They came in swastikas, with six-pointed
stars through bayonets, and they looked,
they looked exactly like the soldiers
in the comics stacked in hundreds by his bed.
Ernest marked the days and years
by the cycles of the moon,
until the neighbors called him mad
and took him from the farm.
We never found his cache,
but we almost made our way to China
digging near the spring.
Susan E. Gunter has published poems in America, Bulgaria, England, Montenegro, and Sweden. Her reviews have appeared in American Arts Quarterly, Crab Creek Review, the Harvard Review, the Henry James Review, Victorian Studies, and other journals. She has also published three academic books on the James family.