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“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.

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

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