Tuesday, October 20, 2015


It's interesting to see how South Church has changed over the centuries, since this meetinghouse structure was erected in 1861.  Here are some views. I want to find out more about when the church was painted white, apparently sometime after 1920, according to the date on the photo (bottom left side) which was taken on School Street in 1920). Knowing how congregational churches work, how was that decided? Whooh, I'd like to hear what happened when the first person stood up at a church meeting and said, "You know, I think the church would look better painted white."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Echoes on the Ipswich and Essex Road (poem)

Echoes on the Ipswich and Essex Road

This poem was read 
at the Parson Barnard House
300th birthday celebration
September 2, 2015

Standing here,
under the sun of an early day,
warm clapboard siding
runs under my hand.
Standing here,
along the front of the old colonial,
square cut nail heads
hidden in the wood
press against my fingertips.
The strike on nail by hand-forged hammer
still echoes to my touch.
Careful joins of the old growth cedar
trace invisibly on my skin.
These old growth trees still stand,
though turned sideways on this house front,
now three hundred years.
A surprising fate, yet they remain.
Careful joins of odd length clapboard –
why these runs of five, five, four, two, four?
Careful hands chose the best lengths,
set them right
on that early day,
now three hundred years.

Half hidden behind the house, a barn stands
unmoved on its foundation of glacial stones,
stones cleared by horse and hand from this field.
A narrow diamond window stares me in the eye,
looks back into darkness.
A round-columned side porch, open like a greeting,
steps to a kitchen garden. There the mistress
once walked to raised beds,
her thyme and sage to gather.
A triangle topped pediment, half columned,
their homage to the spirit
of another past and place,
ordains the entry door. Above, bullet pane glass
paints sunlight on the stair and empty parlor floor.

Standing echoes
of first and second period men and women
are in these frames and walls.
Here, one second before,
their children, sturdy and quiet,
stood and watched from this same sunlit door.

Standing echoes of the past,
standing echoes of their minds and hands
press on me, push into my mind,
speak to me with wordless voice.
How can wood and glass and stone
ache to tell me who was here
on that early day,
now three hundred years?

They started here with rough unpainted frame
when life was rocky and hard,
and madness against neighbor
was one time too near.
A diamond window’s dark light
revealed flinty souls.
On to painted saltbox, add a columned federal porch,
the frame remade 
by these men and women of rising freedom,
and a rare matching rise of grace.

The men who built these walls - 
The women who set these frames - 
I can feel their hands
in what they made and left.
I love their shape,
I love their rough grace
and high simplicity.

These wooden frames remain,
like markers on the shore
of an inland New England harbor,
unsurprised when seas retreated,
unmoved by passing tides.

Standing on the Ipswich and Essex road,
against my fingertips
press board and nail and hidden joins.
How can I hope to know
the minds and hands of those who crafted
these simple protections from the wind and rain?

Yet I feel
the minds of men and women
who made these simple frames.
Yet they remain,
these places to stand and sit,
to dine and play,
to divine and pray.
Echoes of men and women
are standing here,
under the sun of an early day,
now three hundred years.

Mark Bohrer
May 2015 North Andover, Mass.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My poem is published in the North Andover Citizen!

Here's the link to the online version:  North Andover Citizen - on wickedlocal.com

Here is the front page:

Here are pages 4 and 5:
Article and poem opposite the "Your News" page
And here it is, zoomed in to the poem:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bradstreet School Still Stands

Bradstreet School Still Stands                       

The old brick faƧade 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: http://annebradstreet.org/annes-poems/  
The site is the work of  "The Friends of Anne Bradstreet", chaired by Karen M. Kline, Poet Laureate of North Andover.