The Poet's World The John Holmes Collection The Poet's Words The Poet's Life The Poet's World The John Holmes Collection


Big as a table-top, the white map lies under my right hand,
Scrawled over, sketched on, dense with memory as the hand moves. 25.
Arrows run west.
My eastern grandfather ploughed two farms there,
Built houses twice, lost one, and a green crop with it in wind,
But sent home for his brother, writing in rusty ink,
"Tell all our friends they need not die indoors." 26.
I have written names outdoors, large in the northeast,
For my father's fathers, and all their sons' children,
Good and the same, using the same names often, dying old.
Here I have drawn, from a family memory moving my fingers,
Their square, big, plain, many-windowed houses,
Built round a fieldstone fireplace chimney for the warmth,
The back doors closed upon a valley-view. 27.

Their names were Webster, Upham, Robinson, Nash.
They knew green days, and warm roofed-over nights of love,
Knew rage, delight, despair not found in the town clerks' records.
One struck his wife down, ran in a hundred-year-old night
Over the lake ice, fell in the black water, was drowned and damned.
Some owed too much money, some fought too long in the wars,
All dreamed, bought, worked, hated and hurried well.
But there must have been singers in the clover, in the pines,
Shouters to the mountain echo, listening. 28.

Shall I draw crossed knives on this crowded map?
And near which names the shivering edge of joy,
Near which the shrewd point stuck in the back? 29.

What heaven did they believe in, what good, what gods,
As I believe the life in words is as long as heaven to live in?
"I hereby give and bequeath
To my Beloved Sone William Holmes
My Gun, my clock, and my Writing Desk.
" 30.
They gave their sons Death Ready, Time Passing, the Word Written.
I shall not give my own son more, but hope to tell him
I had my heaven on earth, as they had theirs, and knew it.

They buried their kind in Kansas and Vermont,
And the tombstones put down roots.


Acknowledgements Tufts University Tisch Library Digital Collections and Archives
Poetry Notebook Map of My Country Along the Row Part XII Part XI Part X Part IX Part VIII Part VII Part VI Part V Part IV Part II Part I Writing Poetry: Biographies of poems Top Part IV Part II