In retirement, the old man
took on a meter reading route,
enough to pay for booze and cigarettes.
He really wanted to rediscover
the charmed land he discovered after the war
when he strung telephone wires
on the bluffs above the Mississippi River,
before he spent a white-collar lifetime
in the phone company’s Chicago office
pushing papers as a purchasing agent.

Now he drives back country roads
alone in his yellow jeep,
when morning fog hugs the coulees
or dewed weeds sparkle in the dawning sun
or a red-tailed hawk swoops down
to pick up a rattlesnake breakfast
or a doe and fawn shyly cross his path.

He moves from cabin to farmhouse
jumping out to read the meters,
mace in his pocket for the dogs.
On the seat in the jeep,
red thermos of coffee,
lunchbox with egg salad sandwich
for his 10 o’clock break,
and all the time in the world.