Friday, March 18, 2016

The Honeyflow

First bloom of improbable, thin silk-like beauty of our pink tree peony! 
It usually blooms much later in springtime than this. 
And usually, within a day or two, a wind-and-rain storm 
destroys its delicate petals. We shall see. . .
If has been about 50 years since we began this garden around our new house, 
where the topsoil had been graded off before the foundations were laid 
in what had been a field where tomatoes were grown. 
The builders claimed to have put the topsoil back
before they had seeded the front lawn. It didn't seem that way! 
Over the years we added a truckload and countless bags of mulch. 
And now, you can usually pull a weed, although I am sure
the soil would absorb more compost if it had a chance!

The Sprinkle House at Busro Creek

In 1809 the Shakers established a settlement called
West Union, at Busro Creek on the Wabash River,
in Indiana Territory. There they brought under
cultivation a two-thousand-acre tract Subsequently 
known as Shaker Prairie. During the next few years
they set up a distillery, a gristmill and a sawmill.

By 1820 they had constructed a three-story brick
community house having twenty-five rooms, twenty-
one fireplaces, and two kitchens (one for the women
and one for the men). The following year they built
a meeting house across the road from the dwelling

An epidemic of malaria forced the Shakers to give up
the settlement in 1827. The meeting house alone was
left standing. For many years it was thought to be
a frame structure, but when it was torn down in 1875,
workmen discovered brick walls between the studs.

The present Sprinkle House was built with these
salvaged brick. A square, two-story residence in the
Federal Style, it now stands abandoned and open to the
weather on a gravel road five miles west of Oaktown,
a small farming community north of Vincennes.

Though we are gone for eight-score years, this place ---
this ruined hearth, bricks slipping from the walls---
is struck from what we saw: as though each face

that witnessed here were laid in tiers, all
joined as one.  However strange that seems
to you who stand here now, hearing the call

od mourning dove and the slow, steady stream 
and hum of workers bringing the honeyflow
to the beech tree, only remove the beam

from your own eye, soften your heart and know
we are your neighbors still. Would this be 
lasting, this clover, this wind that blows

through the broken windowframes, if we
found refuge solely in each other? We gave
our all to God, and to Mother Ann Lee;

for them we danced, and not ourselves. To save
was never our intent, but to become
true children of an earthly Zion. No grave

could hold that dream. Now that you've come
this far, rest in the shade and stillness,
walk here alone, notice the print of thumb

and finger on the scove-fired brick, guess
what songs we sang going out to the fields
each workday morning. Let your footsteps press

and sink in the mole-haunted grass, feel
earth's give and take. This is the race
we entered, and for your sake, won: the real.

Jared Carter

After the Rain, Cleveland State University, 1993, pages 33-34.

After I found Carter's poem in the old Laurel Review, I ordered his books! This poet is writing great stuff! Jared Carter has a website, too! This poem also interests me because I have read and studied about the Shakers since my parents moved to Shaker Heights in 1957. We lived upstairs in their home while both of us were finishing graduate work at Western Reserve. The Shakers are particularly interesting to me because they came out of the same period of 19th century Christian upheavals that produced the Mormons. And Mormonism is the religion I was raised in. And the attitude, the interest in--and wondering reverence-- in this poem for what my cousin once called "our forebearers", is very similar to my own.

Now, about this poem! Notice the easy grace with which the middle line in each stanza rhymes with the first and third lines in the following three-line grouping. Notice how the prose introduction throws you off the track so one can go along for quite a while innocently reading without pouncing on each rhyme.

Jared Carter will be back on this blog! But don't wait until then to look for more of his poetry on the internet and in your bookstore!

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