When I hear the groan of an old gate open and shut
across one rutted path to another
I like to imagine some boy has jumped over it
and it creaked a few times against the wind
as old gates do. You must have seen them,
the boys running across the farm
in the morning. They tear around
the dusty trails and turn sandy-colored
as the dirt streaks and cracks their skin.
The sun’s warmth rises over the east
elongating the shadows on the dewy grass.
You’d think they’d been waiting for the dawn.
They brace their bodies as their legs leap;
and they seem not to break, though the boys
crash hard; but they right themselves quick.
You may see this gleeful child in your memory
years afterward, hastening toward the gate
like a wild mustang that throws its mane
behind it in the wind as it gallops toward you.
But I was going to say, when the wistfulness broke in
with dreamy longing for the past,
I still yearned to see some boy leap over
the gate as he went in to fetch the cows—
some red-headed boy on his parent’s farm
where the earth smelled fundamentally like home,
summer and winter, morning and night.
One by one he subdued each gate
by hurdling over them again and again
crashing and falling and standing again.
And not one gate left to tame; not one was left
for him to conquer. He learned all there was
to learn about not launching out too soon
and stretching his legs at just the right angle
to clear the ground. He always kept his poise
to the top of the gate, springing carefully
with a gazelle’s rhythmic bound
approaching the gate and over the gate.
Then he leapt upward, pushing with mighty thighs,
clearing the gate and landing on two feet.
And so was the boy a child once, and then he grew,
and now he dreams of going back to be
that same weariless gate-jumper of yore,
when life was a meandering path on a farm
and the only obstacle was a rusty old gate
with a broken chain, and no one judged
the dirt on his elbows or scrapes on his knees.
You’d always jump over the gates,
or as I got older I’d flip over them or hop over them,
and run another lap and begin again.
May no boy be compelled to grow up
and be denied and deprived of what I wish.
The quiet dusty farm is the right place.
I don’t want to give up jumping over gates.
I’d like to go back to walking around the farm
and jumping metal fences with a shameless zeal,
day after summer day, till our legs could bear no more
and we fell, winded, face up on the earth.
It was good, catching the wind and our breaths.
There are worse things than leaping over gates.