“Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together” by Eric Jepson

You never used to sleep this late,
motes of sun dancing above your
face. The years pull your eyes
toward your pillow. Your smile
has become permanent, even in sleep.
I like to trace the lines, each a testament
of God’s surprises, less frequent now.
Now, God gives you time to stand out
by the fence and watch
the few dozen members of your
obscure order plow and seed and reap.
He seems to have little to say.
He has become a nodding God,
satisfied with another harvest. But
are you satisfied? Ten thousand acres
outside Palmyra is more than your father
dreamed of; and as your children’s children
and your nephews’ children and the children
of Knights and Whitmers are born and marry
and work the land, as our Joseph
sits in the Assembly: we know the Lord
has kept his word and made us safe
as I had asked you to ask him to promise us
(once, twice, three times), but you—
you still miss (will always miss) the running
danger of our youth, our near escapes and
passionate celebration. But your
God gave us this corner and gifted us
with happiness and, Oh! Joseph!, as I run
my fingers across your every line,
I see the paths we’ve taken, while
you, in quiet moments, you, in the dark of night,
you, I know, see paths we did not take, paths
God held back—for himself?—for
another?—for ever?

Emma, Emma, you
are enough for me.


A Q&A about this poem with Eric Jepson is available here.