We walked through the barnyard 
rowdy with geese and chickens.
Uncle John,
my grandmother’s oldest brother,
opened the wooden gate
into a pasture sloping gently
into the past,
the grazing horses he employed
around the farm
raised their heads
to look at us,
an old man in overalls and the boy
who relished how lucky he was
to have traveled back in time
on that Sunday afternoon.

I was too young
to boldly ask
why he and his brother
chose to live that way,
no power lines
marching down the dirt lane
into their house,
the washer with a crank
on the front porch,
those kerosene lamps,
without a genie,
smudged with soot
and the smell of coal oil
always in the air,
a reminder
of how much effort
it must take
with no buttons to push
or switches to flick.

John led me
across the land
my ancestors cleared,
the Michigan Road
cut through virgin forest
bringing them in by the wagon load
from Ohio and Kentucky

with their rough hands
and Bibles,
their tools forged by blacksmiths
making miracles happen,
their lye soap and prayers
stronger than any fear.

John took it from his deepest pocket,
a rod shaped like an L
with an elderberry handle,
hollow, I was told,
so the iron could spin
if so inspired.
“This ditch witch
can find underground streams
better than a willow fork,”
he explained,
and I followed him,
the skeptic seed
already sprouted
just below my politeness
and respect.

We walked in zigzags,
the device inert
in his gnarled hand.
I was thinking what to say
when we found no buried water
and I lagged behind
among the thistles,
their flowers blue and painful,
until I saw him motion
and I ran to his side.
The rod had begun to circle,
as he knew it would,
faster with each turn.
“There’s a powerful flow down there,”
he said.
“Here, you take over now.”
I held it, spinning hard
those two small hands,
still in disbelief,
my heart beating in my chest,
what could I have understood
about blood

pushing steady and unstoppable
through the ages?