Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Histories of Houses

The neighborhood and city that I live in has many abandoned houses. In fact, the house I live in was abandoned until our recent renovation. I often think about the lives of these houses, their history, their demise. I believe in their resurrection. Somehow this poem took on more than I intended. My attempt at this week's topic, If these walls could speak...


Histories of Houses

It's 1900.
Row houses spring up
like flashcards in red brick
and link elbows
open their narrow doors to families--
who rush in with their lavender dreams
and cram the stoops
on warm summer evenings.
The whole city leans back
glimpsing the too blue sky.

The trees stretch tall and
the children have grandchildren
who skip to the corner store
for handfuls of candy.
They bring in formstone
to cover the cracking brick
and push back the years.

But then it's the drugs--
and the uncles fading
away to the grey streets
the stealing of the copper piping
from the shut-eyed basement windows.
That's when the leaving begins
the packing up of the station wagons
to drive to the suburbs to find a
new life

The grandchildren's children
glance over their shoulders
as they hustle to school each morning.
In art, they paint planks
with pinky curtains and
turquoise dahlias
to frame the many empty windows
For hope the officials beam

These skeletons--
sagging and leaning
hold the story of a century
and look at tomorrow.

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20 Comments:

Anonymous Dana said...

This is great. I really appreciate the craft that went into these lines, and I am in love with the image of the city leaning back to look at the sky. Such a wonderful way to open the poem.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

I love where this poem went. It's a powerful yet sad testiment to the demise of the inner city, of neighborhoods that were once filled with life and hope ... neighborhoods that are hopefully now being revitalised and reclaimed. Also, Ttank you for stopping by my site. much peace, JP

1:31 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

oh emily!
this sums up baltimore perfectly.
perfectly.

this should be submitted and published.

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The houses with linked elbows, leaning back- it's such a great image- conveys so much about the attitude and confidence of the times. . . Loved the first stanza- good poem!

2:57 PM  
Blogger e* said...

You are very talented. I give much thought to the history and stories of houses as well. Greta work.

3:02 PM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

i especially like the last four lines...
perfect full circle ending.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Nic Sebastian said...

Lots of nice images here -- I particularly liked "the whole city leans back" in S1. Thanks for sharing. Nic

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Bice Sagan said...

My God this is so good and that last stanza is... well I can't even conjur adjectives to describe my praise.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are able to say so much in a poem - a whole history is written there! Lovely - thank you for the insight.

10:53 PM  
Blogger twitches said...

Best one I've read so far - exactly what I envisioned when I read the prompt.

8:47 AM  
Blogger snowsparkle said...

whoa ecm! this piece is so wonderful for so many reasons! and great phrases... "the whole city leans back"
you put me right there! thank you!

11:39 AM  
Blogger jen said...

woohoo. a surprise blessing of another poem. i love the way it all comes alive...and tilts.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very powerful. I love that you described the outsides of the walls.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous susanna said...

Very, very good poem, E. I could SEE those rows of brick houses and children skipping along the street. On the Amtrak route from NYC to Toronto, Canada, there are several towns with boarded up factories and large, empty mansions sitting near the railroad tracks. Sadness and romance for The Past live there. It's easy to imagine what Life must have been like in those buildings in 1900.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great take on the prompt! I could see the houses and familes you decribe in the poem. Very nice.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent poem, very sad histories some communities have and clever to think of telling their stories like this.

3:14 AM  
Anonymous my backyard said...

I like this, esp. image of houses as flashcards.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Dick Jones said...

Really powerful. A wonderful sense of the physicality of community, its vibrancy & its passing as seen through the buildings that housed it.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Liza Lee Miller said...

Mmmmm. I loved this! Found it through the current Poetry Thursday challenge.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous qazse said...

excellent poem. "Row houses spring up like flashcards in red brick
and link elbows" love this visual

12:41 AM  

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