Thursday, December 18, 2014

The home of my childhood

316 First Street, Scotia, New York. From one of my mother's slides.

When I was a baby we lived in the two-colored house behind the tree, in the rented apartment on the first floor. Just after Richard was born in 1943, my folks bought this place, and we lived there until the summer of 1950. They paid $6000 for a two-family house with a basement and attic on four city lots with a garage and a row of rental garages on Second Street. Some of their friends told them that they would never be able to pay for such an expensive house! The 1940 census has just been released and there we found that, at this time, my father was making $3000 per year at General Electric in Schenectady across the Mohawk River. The rent on the flat had been $35 per month. In 1950, they bought the farm (140 acres, 3 barns, substantial but derelict house, 40 acres was oak woodland.) for $11,400. At this point, I don't know what they sold the house on First Street for, but my heart often returns there.
The Inlet
In a dream I go
out into a sunlit street
and I see a boy walking
clear-eyed in the light.
I recognize him, he is
Billy Lippert, wearing the gray
uniform of the school
we attended many years ago.
And then I see that my brother
is with me in the dream,
dressed too in the old uniform.
Our friend looks as he did
when we first knew him,
and until I wake I believe
I will die of grief, for I know
that this boy grew into a man
who was a faithful friend
who died.
                Where I stood,
seeing and knowing, was time,
where we die of grief. And surely
the bright street of my dream,
in which we saw again
our old friend as a boy
clear-eyed in innocence of his death,
was some quickly crossed
small inlet of eternity.

Wendell Berry
Given; Poems, Counterpoint, 2005, page 12.

Here's the task now: begin a poem with the words, "In a dream I go . . ." When I do this, I will doubtless be walking along First Street. I admire the almost-stanza break midline, when the poem shifts out of the dream into the poet's thought about time. I think I will try syllabics for this, although Berry is not using them here, A task for the New Year: In a dream I go . . . .

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