The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Inheritance

By Dennis A. Beaudry © 1990

Issue: February, 1990

The reflected silver moon
exploded on the lake
with every wave and ripple
the rushing wind did make.

The stars enshrined in velvet,
blackened, deep and vast.
The dunes of drifted snow,
wind shifting shadows cast.

The swirling smoke exhaled
from sooted chimney top,
lofting amber ashes
which cool and darkened drop.

The rustic cabin siding,
splintered, cracked and aged,
revealing weather's torture
that Mother Nature staged.

And in the fire-lit cabin,
with warmth and meek decor,
was mirrored the owner's friendship,
yet seemed to offer more.

A homemade wooden table,
built with strength and sweat,
awaited evening's supper
as plate and cup were set.

The kettle in the fireplace,
hanging black and hot,
wafting the aroma
of rabbit freshly shot.

And as my eyes continued,
through the pane, to gaze about,
I yearned to sense the warmth inside,
so absent now without.

My cold and trembling hand
knocked a weakened plea for care.
We faced off in the doorway,
his an older wiser stare.

Without a word he sized me,
then stepped back to let me in.
I sized him in return
deep eyes and aged skin.

Still no words were spoken
as he fixed a bowl of stew
and poured a cup of coffee,
then broke, "this here's for you."

I ate with hearty fervor
the tasty treat he shared,
breaking not the silence,
no thank you even dared.

I finished all he gave me,
drank coffee 'fore the fire.
And as I drew its warmth within,
my soakin' clothes got drier.

Having washed and stacked the dishes,
he sat to smoke his pipe
with bowl of burnished brown
and stem with yellowed stripe.

I rested on the floor,
on a woven tapestry
with scene of deer and elk
that ate near leafy tree.

My eyes they wandered freely
from wall to wall in turn.
And all the while his icy gaze
upon my face did burn.

I spied all his possessions
a gun, a vase, a painting,
a statue of a man,
who caught a woman fainting.

And over on the left side,
he sat in rocking chair,
creaking with his motion
while smoking up the air.

He rose to light the lantern,
then took a book from shelf.
and in the book he wrote a while,
then paused unto himself.

Pleased with what he'd written,
a smile crossed his face,
wrote one more line, closed the book,
and put it back in place.

With yawn and tired eyes,
he parted with his shirt,
blew out the lamp, climbed in bed,
and said, "My name is Kurt."

"You're welcome, friend, to stay here,
if you've nowhere else to go.
I fear you not. So don't fear me.
No questions asked, you know."

The morning brought a shiver.
The evening fire died.
I rose to start another
but there was no wood inside.

Rubbing eyes then shoulders,
to loosen sleep and cold,
I glanced at him upon his bed,
his face a story told.

He'd shared with me his cabin.
A stranger he had fed.
Laying now in stillness,
like the fire Kurt was dead.

On top his chest - a note,
he'd written 'fore he died.
The note said, "I've no family,
no friends, although I've tried.

Please read the book I wrote in.
Please read page six-o-two.
I've no one else to turn to.
I know you'll follow through."

I trembling grasp his notebook,
and read his last request.
Which asked I place his body
'neath the tree he loved the best.

"The oak tree on the hillside,
where morning sun will shine,
to wake me with the sunrise
at the end of time.

And for your labors rendered,
I leave this place to you.
I trust you'll hold it dearly.
That's all that I can do."

For forty years I've lived here,
adding to his book.
Now for a passing stranger
a rabbit stew I cook.

A peaceful life he gave me.
A story we did weave.
So I'm waiting for a stranger,
a book and peace to leave.