Three years ago, the Spring St. Poets wrote poems about objects in the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont. The items were then exhibited, along with the poems, and we did a reading. I wrote this one about a chunk of woodwork that Henry Sheldon had rescued, presumably from some renovation done at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.
~the carving from St. Stephens, found in a cupboard in the barn
One autumn day many years ago I stole
an antique book with a tan leather cover
embossed in gold. The thin pages smelt of mice.
It was in a pile of many heaped
in a corner in a muddled room
on the condemned third floor of a gothic
sandstone castle awaiting remodeling
including–and this is important–new wiring.
It was a building I loved.
When spring came, it all burned up.
Nothing remained but a stone shell and they
bulldozed that into the foundation hole
and built a garage on the spot. I wish
I had taken all the books.
Henry Sheldon would have–
and a juice glass from the dining room and
a candlestick and the pump organ and
a chunk of the chapel window woodwork
and the horsehair sofa from the library
and the doughnut jar from the kitchen and
the mantlepiece from the common room and
the shield that hung above it and the tower
bell that fell and no one ever found and
a railing from the front porch where we used
to sit in the moonlight and sing or kiss.
What is this about? —
to love places, to care about things, to care
what happens to them, to be wary of change,
to want to remember, to want everyone
to remember, to believe that history
matters, to want to keep something, keep many
things, the everyday bits:
shoes and razors and appleboxes and doorframes,
chairs and violins and cupboards and spinning wheels
and dishes and cannonballs and hacksaws and drums
and books that no one will ever read.