Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bradstreet School Still Stands

Bradstreet School Still Stands                       

The old brick façade gazes silently down,
watching the quiet yard of school days past.
Empty halls echo, life and lessons are done.
Windows stand dark, the welcome door is held fast.
For these brick walls, the bell has rung.

Here lively feet and playful voices once gathered.
Days began with a class on the swings and bars.
So keen to learn – a jest – not all so eager
for the school mistress bell to sound the start.
Take your seat, hands folded, sit straight for teacher.
Pens out, books open, the lesson’s begun.

Perhaps the hand of an earlier mistress
guided their pens, though her hand held a quill.
She walked the same land, a poet’s page was her canvas.
She reared her own, with goodly words instill’d.
In the verse that she wrote – to her child not yet born –
was it meant for those who gathered here each morn?

Perhaps you saw far to your red brick namesake.
Would you nod your assent, to what your words began,
to lessons learned under your good gentle name?
Surely taught – as by your own careful hand –
the pupils and teachers you trained,
your descendants became.

The purpose that guided the build of this frame
has carried on to other rooms, other doors.
This mistress is left, behind her fence, her gate.
Decision made, by town citizens okayed,
this red brick lady will stand no more.

Only some stores, in-town homes, and a plaque 
Leaving the mind’s eye, and a gift, in the heart
of those with town colors of scarlet and black,
of those in her care who studied and taught,
of those with the spirit of sturdy red brick.

The good gentle spirit of our mistress poet,
with her own at her knee as she taught and pen’d,
has carried on to those who were not yet born,
has carried on to those who guide with sure hand,
has carried on to those who teach all as their own.

When this brick lady is gone,
some will yet understand –
Bradstreet school is still here.
Bradstreet school still stands.

Mark Bohrer
December 2014  North Andover, Mass.

"Bradstreet School Still Stands" posted on the fence when the school was being torn down (background).

The poem had its start this past December when I drove past the then shuttered Bradstreet School. Somehow that day, the sight of the old school building sitting by itself behind the closed gate, surrounded by the snowy schoolyard, gave me an idea for a poem. My daughter had gone to kindergarten at Bradstreet when it was last in use as an Early Childhood Education Center. I felt sad to see it sit there empty and unused for so long, and I felt this even more keenly when the town decided that it should be torn down. 
For a few weeks I mulled over these thoughts. Then I parked there one Saturday afternoon in December and put the thoughts on paper. The poem is what resulted. 
I’ve enjoyed reading poetry all my life, but only recently read Anne Bradstreet’s poems.  I was really amazed at how good and accessible they are, even after these centuries. She was a really remarkable woman. And this town was her home. I tried to capture something of the spirit she conveyed, and my feelings about Bradstreet School.

I've since heard that Bradstreet School was actually named after Anne's husband, Simon Bradstreet, who was governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But where Simon spent much of his life away in Boston in service to the colony, Anne lived and wrote here in this town, and I feel that the name of Bradstreet School is hers as much as Simon's.
I’ve written poetry before, but was especially happy to write a poem about and for North Andover. I hope people enjoy it, and think about all of those who dedicated their lives to teaching the children of our town over the years - and centuries.

If you'd like to read some of you Anne Bradstreet's poems, you can find them here:  
The site is the work of  "The Friends of Anne Bradstreet", chaired by Karen M. Kline, Poet Laureate of North Andover.

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