Manor On A Hill
‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust.’
‘In my ending is my beginning.’
-T. S. Elliot
In creaks of shadows,
your windswept promontory
behind twigs of Forsythia,
bent Lilac branches,
your dusty red and green
antiqued form emerges as I look up.
As I walk along your cliffs,
trodding sparse grass
growing on steep mounds
too treacherous to climb,
I look up to view your hulking angularity,
your grey windows shrouded in dust.
At the base of your cliffs the children
splash on the waterfront green,
your stone patio blocks sunken and pooling;
after rain, I see them. I walk along them
stepping cautiously to avoid slipping
for I do not live here, I am but a passer-thru
who does not live in these temporary summer dwellings
along this shore.
You appear sealed shut
with no life inside, I wonder,
who lived there, how long ago,
how bright were the days, were they
like today or yesterday,
were you a beacon in fog,
your candles flickering?
Did your chimney smoke
and did your fires warm anyone
on cold windy nights or crisp days,
how many persons?
How forgotton that seems now,
it seems you stand but cold and still.
How bright was the sea before you,
how reaching forward when you came to be,
or were you always here; you appear
part of the part of the hillside as if
you were wrought by time itself,
but what time, you seem timeless.
And the dusty path which led to you,
was it older than you, were you
a destination before there were destinations,
or were you found by lucky ones who
built around you, who built you anyway;
will your ending be as your beginning.
And in those dusty windows which
never began, as it were, never were born
or ever died or reflected anything,
were never afraid or unsure or
were beacons to anyone but
flickered dimly at best to those
in the distance who cared to gaze
upon them, who inside was looking,
or living, or giving, or taking, fulfulling,
or willing to lay fruit about your table
to be consumed or delighted in.
How bat-infested were your gables,
your eaves, how dried your shingles
brushed by trees in storms, the trees
your companions. How many wondered
what lie within your walls, what sorrows,
what joys, what seasons, what relics;
whom and was this logged in your fading
clapboards, your creaking porch.
Did your weary hillside remember to
recall your tales, would a handful of dust
tell of your fears, would your shadow at
dusk shelter those years.
Oh, preservation - a monument
yet I walk beneath where
the children laugh and play.
It is you I want to reach.
To bring myself home to the antiquities
of warm fires, soft breezes, cloaked hands
in brisk salt air.
As you sit in the fog, fading it seems
yet never so clearly did your embers glow
your smoke rise, your trees rattle.
Your dim presence exudes time itself
and I was there, so am I here
we always were; of you
I lived inside.
I stoked the fire, set the table
fitted the linens on the cots,
swept the floorboards,
lit candles in your windows
and it was me they saw in your windows;
the shore front passers-by,
the children at play,
the birds in the heavens --
Stay shut in your frozen locks,
your jammed doorways,
stay cloaked in dust for I am trapped inside
and seek not exit. Not now, not ever
It was the hillside; it bore me
and spoke, gave not a word thereafter --
it hatched birds to fly and land on my porch
and the seasons; the seasons were in rotation
around it, the sun and the moon and all the planets
bore such witness yet still I am solitary
climbing your hill, feet striding to grasp,
neck straining to look;
you amaze me for I know so little about you,
the dust becomes you; the dust of the sky’s fear
in handfuls of grass on your windy hillside:
It is only this I seek:
To be home at last.