Once

Old home in Eland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Old home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Once

The door is ajar, waiting for someone to come in,
But no one comes now except for you, you who
Climbed through overgrown grasses circling the house.

Wanderers like you come sometimes, looking for things
They once knew, remembering those they have lost, and
Places that they once loved, places they called home

Once this was home. Families lived here, died here.
Brides moved in and babies came, some were lost,
But most grew into fine young folk. Wars came, and

With them a generation of men might disappear. Yes,
Sickness came but so did love. Life was full then. Every
Home is made of lumber and nails, people and dreams.

Once the fire would have been lit on short winter days,
Keeping us warm, the heat drying wet wool mittens and
Mended socks. Flames burning so hot that our cheeks

Grew red while ice-cold winds knocked on the walls.
Flames burned down to chalky ashes during the night,
While we slept two to a bed and sometimes three.

Father was up early to stir the embers, add hickory logs,
Small broken branches and sticks the children gathered.
From this, he coaxed new flames to burn again all day.

You stand here now today, a cold Saturday in March,
Camera in hand, waiting to capture something, but
What that is you don’t know. Not much is left to share.

Once there were so many stories about the families—
Brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts. Their
Stories are gone for good but once they were here.

Without warning, memories of your own childhood
Rush into these walls, so real you can almost feel them,
They come so fast—an unasked for surprise.

If you listen hard enough, you hear children laughing
At the three young pups who are worrying the chickens,
And momma running out to chase them with her broom.

But it’s the inside of the house that pulls you back.
Looking up at broken rafters, you study the timbers:
Was it was fire or ice that brought down the roof?

Look hard and you might see momma sitting there near
The fire, the flames giving her light to do her mending.
Here she would sit and work. Sometimes she sang,

Her voice a clear soprano, ours a mix of everything else.
Daddy might take down pawpaw’s fiddle, and begin
Tuning it slowly string-by-string, note-by-note.

If you were the lucky one that day, he might ask you
To rosin the bow for him. Those were the good days
When they’d play our favorite songs or hymns.

But the best part was always the last, when they played
Old timey tunes, foot tapping music we loved.
We’d start dancing together, our shoes pounding hard

Like wild thunder on the old wooden floorboards.
It would echo so loud, we’d dance even faster
And then, exhausted, we finally had to stop.

A small redbird perches up on the open eaves,
Straw in its beak. It is nesting here in the house.
Can you hear its mate singing an ode to early spring?

If you listen to the silence, you might hear the whispers.
Or maybe it’s nothing, lost memories, old stories and
Wind blowing through the open roof, the broken floor.

~ ~ ~

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Photographs by Gary Brichford © 2015

Note of Thanks to Gary Brichford, I am honored that you’ve allowed me to use your beautiful photographs of this old house that still stands in Efland, North Carolina. Your pictures make the past so real. Many thanks, my friend.

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

 

 

cardinal nesting

25 thoughts on “Once

  1. What a rich, lovely and satisfying poem! I love the fire burning on your cheeks as the socks dried, “worrying” the chickens–and the wonderful times singing and fiddle playing. You have opened a door rich in memory and moments filled with love. Thank you for this, dear Mary! xo

    Like

      • I do not think we have Cardinals in India. We do have the Oriental Magpie Robin; a black and white bird. I wake up to their songs every morning. Sometimes I hear them sing at night too; 3.00 am-ish. Talking about birds, a pair of Red Whiskered Bul Buls have nested on a crouton plant (near the rosebush) in my yard. Not a very clever place to choose, anyway.

        I discovered the eggs by sheerest chance while on a cleaning spree. Now the eggs have hatched – three babies- and both my son and I track their daily progress eagerly. They were quite helpless, featherless and possibly blind earlier, but now after almost two weeks, they have grown feathers and have found their voices. The tiny cheep-cheep has become a part of our lives.

        They have become our babies too, in a way!

        Thanks again for the lovely poem, Mary. Have a great weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

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