“The Homecoming”…..

 

The Homecoming

 

I passed right by it on that river-twinned road,

the county lax on cutting limbs,

shrub from the roadside.

 

Sixty years I travelled down that road

The house sticking out

Like a beacon of light pulling me homeward.

 

I was ashamed I had gone by,

Not recognizing until up upon it,

And then missing the driveway.

 

Oh, how much things have changed!

Paint peeling from clapboards and trim,

Shutters, too, and a worse offense-

The pin from the door of the smokehouse

Fallen, where the plank door hung like a

 Drunken one-armed monkey. 

 

Gone was the orchard, gone the 50 fruit trees

My father labored to grow. Gone, too, the peonies

That crowned the hill below the pasture, too far

From the fence for any horse nibbling.

Gone the fence, too.

 

Inside I marveled how small

The rooms seemed, though a huge

Stove and island took much room

From  the old kitchen, once more

Simple in décor.

 

I put my hand on the oldest mantel,

And the house didn’t breathe.

I heard no tinkling laughter,

No ghosts  nor kin playing in the halls,

No strains of a French horn,

No barking of dogs,

No clucking of long gone hens.

 

That ghost I was familiar with,

Making drying plates stand up and twirl,

And once in a while, I would  jump down from

The barn’s rafters, run to the house eager to play

With any soul  faintly calling my name.

 

I never knew what ghost did the bedeviling.

Either a shade of a Dutch farmer smoking

His long, white clay pipe,

Or a Colonial soldier oiling his rifle,

Perhaps a housewife, mourning her  dead children.

Typhoid in the 1820’s took

Scores of children.  Many graves

Told the tale.

 

“Sleep on dear babe

And take thy rest,

God called ye home,

He thought it best.”

 

I never knew what haunted the house,

But something did.

 

On the side of the house by the brook

Was  a 15 foot pile of firewood,

A foot from the shakes, but Good God!

Don’t people know termites

Can fly and fly up into those  shakes where

They add to the misery of age?

 

I remember standing in the upstairs hall,

Looking out  into the black night,

And seeing the foxfire centered over the

Septic tank.  Gold, a fool’s gold indeed.

I was greedy for that fool’s gold, being

A willing enough young fool.

 

The house had grown into a fragile, elderly old dame,

In desperate need of her toilette

To repair the ravage of years.

No roses blooming on the trellis,

No pots of flowers flanking the front door,

The iron holders for the window boxes

Like empty arms imploring some blossoms.

 

 

I turned and walked away,

With memories good and tragic,

I had grown apart, or grown more cynical,

Life taking a toll on long-ago memories,

Now saddened but at a strange peace.

Finally  freed of the haunts of the house-

Its history, too.

Nothing  I could do to repair

The ravages of time or fashion.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted  2012

I took a trip to central New Jersey a week ago to attend Aunt Jean’s 100th Birthday Celebration. She is beautiful, witty and in great health. When we were there, we took a trip out to our old home, in our family for 44 years. My father restored this 250 year old historic house. It was, eventually, the death of him. The poem on the gravestone is from the grave of Jennie Wykoff, who died of typhoid in 1820, at the age of five years. Bless the present owners, it is a hard house to maintain, and only devoted love will extend the life of this house.

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17 Responses to ““The Homecoming”…..”

  1. Steve E Says:

    Whatever has left the house
    be it drug, or Peep or mouse–
    always there remains remembered Ghost
    mingled with feint smell of burn-ed toast
    –steveroni

    Congratulations to Aunt Jean–I’d LOVE to meet her!
    PEACE, Jane!

    Like

  2. Nick Says:

    Oh my, that house pre-dates white settlement in Australia! Historic indeed. And what history the house must have seen, the generations and the stories that have lived between its walls.

    This evocative description summed it up beautifully and gave the house a human personality: “The house had grown into a fragile, elderly old dame / In desperate need of her toilette / To repair the ravage of years.”

    A lovely poem, Jane, and I’m glad that you were “Finally freed of the haunts of the house”. A satisfying closure.

    Like

  3. Spiros Zafiris Says:

    ..much enjoyed the poem, Lady Nyo..your good heart nudged
    you to write it..

    ..>>spiros
    ~~

    Like

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Nick….yes, indeed, between its walls. I am so glad you liked the poem. I’ve had it in my mouth and disturbing my sleep for a week. Threw it together yesterday because I needed to get some of it out…but I think this is a poem up for revision at some point.

    I struggled with that closure and am still not sure it’s done.

    The house is around 1740’s…..could be even older…the back portiion. Around 1787 the rest of the house was built, with some Victorian elements in the decoration outside. The Wykoff=Cortelyous lived there from the beginning. We bought it in 1950…a wreck. Turns out that we are also Wykoff on my mothers side. So the house stayed in the ‘family’ from the mid 18th century to 1994.

    Bless and protect that house. The owners since (and there have been two families) have quite a task on their hands…it’s a hard mistress, that house. It was the death of my dear father…he restored it piece by piece.

    Hugs,
    Jane

    Like

  5. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Steve, that is a leavening comment.

    Thank you, Sir.

    Peace!
    Jane

    Like

  6. hedgewitch Says:

    I often think with nostalgia of the past(or some parts of it anyway, though I never had such a lovely home as this, even with its ghosts) and wonder if I would even recognize now the places that meant so much to me…time is cruel in America–almost everything is abandoned or changes before it has a chance to become ancient enough to be valued and cared for. This is a wonderful poem, Jane, resigned without losing that sense of connection and beauty, accepting and strong. I’m glad you had a chance to go back and visit both the house and your Aunt, who sounds like a lot of fun.

    Like

  7. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Hedgewitch!
    I think you are very right: our attitude towards the ‘old’ is cruel and dismissive. Houses, animals, people.

    Going back I didn’t recognize places…too much change, and many times not for the better, and just…well, the amount of dead deer on the roadsides was an indication of so much…too many deer, not enough county money (yet the taxes in this area are some of the highest in the state!) to remove them, but let them fester or roll them down into the ravines and gullies…

    That house killed my father. He worked on it for 40 years…it was a basket case when he bought it and was slated to be burned by the local fire department. Even after they bought it, someone tried to take the front staircase out….so my parents and us toddlers moved in a house that had no toilet (an outhouse only) no pump or well….and only one strand of wire for a lightbulb hanging over the kitchen. We were truly pioneers then.

    ‘That sense of connection’…well, something broke in me. This house has haunted me my entire life…and seeing it last week? There was an acceptance that I had nothing left in it….that it had passed from my hands. Once my father died, it was no longer of us.

    Aunt Jean~! What a wonderful woman who calls me ‘daughter’ as I call her ‘mother’. She is so quick minded that she makes me feel slow. LOL!

    And about that poem….i know it needs some revision..tightening, something and I am not happy with the resolve as was written…but later for that.

    Thank you, Joy, for reading and always your insightful comments.

    Jane

    Like

  8. ladynimue Says:

    Every time I go visit my grandmom, I wonder how long will i be still seeing the house where I was born , where I first walked , where I find myself in my first nightmare , where I can blindly walk through and be unhurt..

    Some day the house going to go away to some stranger ; and yet I feel I will always find myself a little girl there …

    Like

  9. brian miller Says:

    wow really cool capture of the place…old house contain great memories…and def a few ghosts as well…the house i grew up in certainly did…i like your pondering at who or what it might be….and my how places change…made me think of going home to where i grew up and how much it has changed after my leaving…

    Like

  10. ManicDdaily Says:

    Wonderful poem – you bring in so many stories in those rafters and characters. I’m not sure modern houses have such characters or if so, seem as squashed as the ceilings. Very lovely poem. k.

    Like

  11. johnallenrichter Says:

    Oh! How powerful those memories are, and what true beauty they bring from you! so lovely……. You can never really go home, Lady Nyo….

    Like

  12. ladynyo Says:

    John…you are exactly right. I almost titled that poem “You can never go home”…..

    thank you, John, for reading and your comment.

    Jane

    Like

  13. ladynyo Says:

    Hi K, thank you for reading this poem. I think it needs compression or something….revision. I’m not sure it really said what I wanted to say….that’s a problem with poetry.

    Jane

    Like

  14. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Brian…..things change and they change in proportions we don’t foretell. I never really believed in ghosts…but I did have this experience. I wonder why that didn’t convince me of their existence?

    Thank you, Brian…always.

    Jane

    Like

  15. ladynyo Says:

    Exactly, Lady Nimue…..we are always children in these circumstances with a child’s expectations.

    Thank you so much for reading and your insightful comment.

    Jane

    Like

  16. ManicDdaily Says:

    Well, I find it very hard to compress in the blogging context as one is writing quite quickly. I think it’s a lovely poem, but I know that every single thing I do can merit from compression. It’s very difficult. You’ve done a good job here though. k.

    Like

  17. ladynyo Says:

    thank you, K. I agree…compression is a good thing, especially for us poets! LOL~ It leads to simplicity, in a finer sense, and that can’t be all bad.

    Jane

    Like

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