“Homecoming,” Ensign, July 1988, 65


Third Place

Perhaps he then returned

At thirty-one or -two,

His tall frame stopping sunlight at the door,

Familiar shadow on familiar wall.

But she’d have sensed him there

Before she saw

And, thanking God,

Abandoned wheel or loom or bowl

To fling herself into his arms,

Then hold him back,

At arms’ length,

To satisfy her soul.

And she’d have seen

The whole, and more:

Sandals layered thick

With dust of untold steps,

Unknown towns;

Shoulders stooped a bit,



with short-cropped nails

And craftsman’s square utility,

Unmarked (what had the dream been, then?)

Except for memory

Of plane and saw

Or childhood scrape;

And eyes of weary wisdom,

Warm compassion,

Past and future pain,

Of present love.

I think she could not look for long.

Then she’d have offered food

and calm concern,

And gently probed the aching months apart,

His health, his heart—

Savoring, hoarding every brief response

Against the future drought

Her love was powerless to stay.

And he’d have left with lighter step

And backward smile,

As she stood

In that empty place,

Her last gift given,

Her shoulders

Stooped a bit,