After 30 years of life in this house, I find it impossible to separate the man from the house. The spirit of this place informs everything I do…in poetry, in prose, in life. I never think of myself as living in a different house or in a different town. I am part of its spiritual timbers. James Hart
Recently, I wrote the following poem which conveys some of my symbolic attachment to the house I use as my email identity and as the name for this blog site. Although I created this blog for prose, I thought this poem could function as an inaugural piece. The poem also has one subtle theme connection to Billy Collins’ poem “Schoolsville,” although it is not a major one. His poem mentions a teacher’s “big white house” located at “Maple and Main.” It is probably more of a connection of sound sense than anything else. The idea has occupied my imagination for some time until I finally wrote this effort.
At Maples on Main
“Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”
-from Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”
When I consider my current email moniker, harthouse “at”
my present provider, the harthouse part I’ll always maintain
as easy extension of myself. But lately I’m debating naming
my house “Maples on Main,” recalling my grandfather’s home
on South Virginia in Carrollton was called “The Maples”
until the Great Depression booted them from its door,
that exit spreading melancholy over my mother’s life to me.
These maples I planted here decades ago have outgrown
my house’s height, touch the stars when I look up and sigh.
They shelter me from summer’s heat and piercing sunlight
and winter’s sorrows of the sky. I can put them to my own
reclusive uses now: imaging limbs as antlers thrashing
in time’s tormented storm, or seeing the season’s leaves form
airy aviaries for wrens, robins, and jays—nature’s cathedral
for my choir of insect buzz and birdsong news. Shakespeare
calls these boughs “bare ruined choirs” when a man looks
into the autumn of his bones: sunset, twilight, night, the ashes
we spread on God’s heavenly bed. I have learned to lose William’s
dimmer view of “Death’s second self” and view blackest night
as my own second home, much like Whitman’s patient spider
launching filaments of loneliness to lodge against the universe
and take hold somewhere like a rope anchoring destiny
to a pledge: I no longer see myself as unaccountable,
I’m no longer twinned to echoes of familiar hollowness.
I too can walk out like Orion striding blind beyond the western
ledge, the eternal huntsman clothed in his own shrouded skin,
his constellation forming the hourglass of a winter passage,
his tread steady as a man determined to bridge unbroken voids.
This is how our going out should be: into the armature of night,
into the silence of the stars, whether going to take the anxious
dog for his walk, collect the paper from the remnants of the rain,
or speak to shadows of a love you thought you lost one fabled day.
Imagery indebted to William Shakespeare, Sonnet 73
February 3, 2013