POEM SERIES – Carol Hamilton

Posted: July 1, 2012 in Fiction, Poetry
Tags: , , , ,

Connecticut House Sitting in a Simpler Day

The Episcopal priest had such
earthly treasures on St. Ronan St.,
that any week away required a guard
for the dark paintings and heavy draperies,
the gloom of too much Victorian enthusiasm.
The grandfather’s clock with gilding
and gold chains and a patriarch’s deep voice
ticked off the too silent moments in that house.
Sleep required one eye wary
for the sneak thieves on tiptoe
or those lowering themselves
through the ceiling,
dangling from the chandelier.
That was years ago and we
young lovers living across the street.
Our one room was pink curtained,
a scandal on that sedate street
of old wealth and burdensome taxes.
The Episcopal priest had too much stuff.
But we were young and loved to pretend.
That was a house that held its breath,
and I can see us there, still,
bony hands around teacups,
two skeletons seated at each end
of the long, mahogany table
where nothing is lost,
nor, indeed, is anything gained.

The country pastor, one of the gentry,
lived in a suburb, a Connecticut dream
of Trollop and Dickens. Or maybe
Hawthorne. The woodsy homes were
too far apart to tell. We house sat
for a month, desecrated the dream
of gentility, made love in the hall
and on the rustic rugs, entertained
radical young rabbis from New York,
brought our neurotic collie and crazy cat.
The atmosphere shifted, surely.
And ever after, the tweed-suited matron
eyed me in my low-backed dress
of pink with gold gild roses
and my sling-backed pumps
with suspicion. Every house, I know,
holds its history, and a New England clapboard
with Puritan leanings is tainted forever
by a Southern girl and the heavy scent
of gardenias. The house might have been
safer in the hands of greedy thieves.

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