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.

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