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Diary by a Twenty-Year-Old Man

 by Martha Deed


It calls to me

the dark leather diary

small tear on its front cover

145 years old  and composed

by a 20-year-old man


What can he say to me?

this fellow who somehow missed

the Civil War?

(Perhaps too young?)

Who wants to succeed

at gardening

should he remain at home

for the next year?

And at the very least

hopes his family will all live to see

year's end, who declares his need

to control his disposition


Why do I hang on to his every word

when the 20 year-olds I knew

in my day

were hopeless . . .?


Has Winter scorched his smile

as it has mine?


This is a serious inquiry

more basic than the ancient photo

that solved the riddle of where

my brother got his nose.




Note: The diarist was Charles Edward Shepard, future editor and publisher of The Long-Islander. Author's Great-grandfather. The 1869 diary is now held by Huntington Historical Society.


Martha Deed's poetry collections Climate Change (2014) and her sixth book, Under the Rock (forthcoming), are from Foothills Publishing.  Author of a half-dozen chapbooks, her most recent is “We Should Have Seen This Coming” (Locofo Chaps Moria Poetry, 2017).  Deed has twice been nominated for a Pushcart prize and dozens of her poems have appeared in online and print journals as well as in anthologies published by Iowa, Red Hen, Exoxial, and others. 







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