Sunday, January 4, 2009

An amateur poem: 'Losing River View Farm'

I originally submitted this poem in 2006 as part of my poetry applications to the master of fine arts in creative writing programs at both Queens University and Vermont College. I had also applied to both programs in creative nonfiction. The two schools accepted me in creative nonfiction, and both rejected me in poetry! I completed my MFA in creative nonfiction at Queens University, Charlotte, in May 2008. In the following poem, I tell a gut-wrenching story from my own life. From the standpoint of composition, I crafted the same number of syllables into each line, with a shift to fewer syllables per line in the last section, to represent the change I was describing.

Losing River View Farm
By Colin Foote Burch
(c) 2009 Colin Foote Burch

My lost love is two Flemish-brick chimneys
Connected by 300-year-old wood –
A remote farm house forever lost when
My grandfather bled into his bed and
The family knew henceforth the doctors
Would be too far away from River View.
We sold it, not before digging, peering
Through the house and barn, through decades of dust,
Through books and forgotten military
Uniforms and defiled clocks, over
The courses of weekends as my grandfather
Wobbled about, trying to regain his
Strength, trying to say good-bye forever.

There’s no silencing his regret or ours.
My uncle planned to retire down there.
That house tied me to the past’s bubbling fount,
And to a family history that
Gave a spiritual and ancestral
Home, just two or three miles from All Saints church,
Where my (namesake) great-grandfather still rests
Among Burches, Dents and Blackistons. Lost:
Our family land, our family farm,
In the state where I was born but lived for
Only three months, native Marylander.

There are some memories we can only
Remember while in this old house – even
In the new addition, built cozy to
The bedrock of Flemish brickwork. Here we
Watched football on the old RCA set,
Here we dozed nightly by the fireplace, here
We dipped Aunt Barb’s “Mississippi Mud’’ dip
And thought we could skip dinner. The large room
Of the new addition, living room and
Kitchen, was where my grandmother cooked eggs
And bacon and apples in a skillet.
Through the door way was the old house, the high
Ceiling of the old dining room, with its
Fireplace in the corner, where we piled a
Table for Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.

There are some memories we can only
Remember while in this huge yard – those
Weaving runs through the boxwood rows, pursued
By our small black mutt; tossing the Frisbee
With a girlfriend to whom I would propose;
Picnics years ago under the cedar,
Before the tornado took it; Grandpop’s
Story of the water tower’s age-old
Skeleton – his summer duty as a
Boy was to clean the tank that’s been gone for
Decades now, while the lingering smell of
Honeysuckle on the quarter-mile lane
To Burch Road floats everlasting and strong.

There are some memories we can only
Remember while in this place – among the
Places where they were born, wood floors and walls,
Boxwoods and smokehouse as witnesses. In

My dream, water was flowing off the
Property into Canoe Neck Creek –
Not onto the property, not high
From storm or tide – flowing off the land,
A rolling gush down the gully now,
Between the grass and the crops, near the
Remnants of the old pier, into the
Great creek, a flow of thousands of small
Memories, indistinguishable
And tumbled together and drown in
The creek’s greedy memory, its mud
And water never sharing the past,
It will remain silent and stingy
As motorboats and water skis splash
The waters where our crab pot once sat,
Grandpop’s “Crustacean Hilton,” last home
To meals we cracked on the screened back porch –
A later tradition but one
I will always remember.

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