Posts Tagged ‘central’

“The Homecoming”…..

September 17, 2012


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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