Ralph Skip Stevens
Bio Note: Looking through some of my recent work I saw, as a recurring theme, the character of old and/or empty buildings. My wife is a photographer drawn to the decaying barns and houses in the landscape of rural Maine where we live, and her passion for taking pictures of these is infectious. The following poems were inspired by that passion. I live in a small island community of beautiful summer homes, vacant most of the year. The second poem is in homage to these.
How Is It That a Ruin
You think there’s something there, in the old barn, its roof sagging in the middle, one wall collapsing inward. How is it that a ruin can arouse your curiosity? You would not stable horses in such dilapidation or ask the cows to spend even one night. You know the risk you take now setting your feet on rotting planks, looking for you know not what. The past, perhaps? The year that tractor, rusting in the corner, last came to life and chugged off filling the air with blue exhaust? The old things, the harness, black leather cracking, pitchfork attached by spiders to a post, and clumps of hay scattered everywhere – these have the dignity of age. Age has its privileges and the privilege of collapsing barns could be this stillness. They have earned their independence, no longer need anything except to sit with broken tools in the gathering dust, feeling no obligation to satisfy anyone’s curiosity.
Forgotten until Summer
My walk this morning was in a town of empty houses, forgotten until summer when they pack the car and arrive, the parents and children, to fill the rooms. Caretakers will turn the water on, pull the sheets off furniture where no one sits now this January when I am filled with the emptiness of houses, cupboards where dishes do not feel a human hand, closets full of empty shirts and dresses, rooms full of silence, air cold, unmoving. It finds me, this emptiness, I am drawn to it in sympathy with the houses defenseless now, and full of winter.
©2020 Ralph Skip Stevens
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