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ANTHOLOGY OF MASSACHUSETTS POETS (39)

2006-08-28 19:24

    FALLEN FENCES

    THE woods grew dark; black shadows rocked And I could scarcely see My way along the old tote road, That long had seemed to me

    To wind on aimlessly; but now Came full to life; the rain Would soon strike down; ahead I saw A clearing, and a lane

    Between gray, fallen fences and Wide, grayer, grim stone walls; So grim and gray I shrank from thought Of weary, aching spalles.

    On stony knoll great aspens swayed And swung in browsing teeth Of wind; slim, silvered yearlings shook And shivered underneath. Beyond, some ancient oak trees bent And wrangled over roof Of weatherbeaten house, and barn Whose sag bespoke no hoof.

    And ivy crawled up either end Of house, to chimney, where It lashed in futile anger at The wind wolves of the air.

    I thought the house abandoned, and I ran to get inside, When suddenly the old front door was opened and flung wide

    And she stood there, with hand on knob, As I went swiftly in, Then closed the door most softly on The storm and shrieking din.

    A space I stood and looked at her, So young; 'twas passing strange That fifty years or more had gone And brought no new style's change.

    The sweetness, daintiness of her In starched and dotted gown Of creamy whiteness, over hoops, With ruffles winding down!

    We had not much to say, and yet Of words I felt no lack; Her smiles slipped into dimples, stopped A moment, then dropped back.

    I felt her pride of race; her taste In silken rug and chair, And quaintly fashioned furniture Of patterns old and rare.

    On window sill a rose bush stood; 'Twas bringing rose to bud; One full bloomed there but yesterday, Dropped petals, red as blood.

    Quite soon, she asked to be excused For just a moment, and Went out, returning with a tray In either slender hand.

    My glance could not but linger on Each thin and lovely cup; "This came, dear thing, from home!" she sighed The while she raised it up.

    And when the storm was done and I Arose, reluctantly To go, she too was loath to have Me go, it seemed to me. When I reached old Joe Webber's place, Upon the Corner Road, I went into the Upper Field Where Joe, round-shouldered, hoed

    Potatoes, culling them with hoe And practised, calloused hand, In rounded piles that brownly glowed Upon the fresh-turned land.

    "Say, Joe," I said, "who is that girl With beauty's smiling charm, That lives beyond that hemlock growth, On that old grown-up farm?"

    Joe listened, while I told him where I'd been that afternoon, Then straightened from his hoe, and hummed, Before he spoke, a tune "They cum ter thet old place ter live Some sixty years ago; Jest where they cum from, who they ware, Wy, no one got to know.

    "An' then, one day, he hired Hen's Red racker an' the gig; We never heard from him nor could We track the hoss or rig.

    "Hen waited 'bout a week, an' then He went ter see the Wife; He found her in thet settin' room: She'd taken of her life.

    "An' no one's lived in thet house sence; Some say 'tis haunted,-but I ain't no use fer foolishness, So all I say's tut! tut!"

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