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

X. 48.

The house I lived in was a place
Of warm and lighted blocks of space,
And when my life outdoors was done,
Roof made them all by night seem one. 49.
I sprawled upon the floor and read,
But more than book was in my head.
I felt then how the house must feel
To be a thing built right and real.

The great speech given against the noise of life,
Dogs barking, airplanes in the sky, oil-trucks, noise,
Gets printed the next day, read by the next generation.
"What I have come here to tell you is that every man
Is a soul as real as a fenced-in field on a mountain
Where grass grows, and the clouds stand high over him.
The sun shines on every man, on every man's mountain;
I tell you nothing can darken that sun-" noise,
Train-whistles, traffic crowding at the corner, horns.

The ceiling met wall's upward thrust
With tranquil whiteness, flat and just.
Floor-boards were nailed to beam, nailed tight,
And only late on a winter's night,
When floors cracked in the driven cold,
Did I ever think they might not hold.
By daylight, or in later weather,
They stretched as easily together
As I did in my flesh and bones.

"I tell you the history of the soul is made for a man
By that sun, every day-" noise, tires on the wet street,
A loud voice a hundred times amplified, the loud
Mechanical voice carried slowly through every street.
"This soul, this man, this green and growing field,
Quietly in his seasons knows his God; and nothing
Shall trespass on this acre, none shall lay waste
This mountain pasture." Trolley-cars. Radio. Noise.
"What is he saying now?"
"Something about mountains."
"Who did they say he is?"
"Some speaker. I don't know."

The houseframe timbers on their stones,
Wearing between their ribs the wall
Since I knew anything at all,
Were jointed deep and chosen stout
To keep the cold and darkness out.

Ash barrels, fire engines, noise, radio, noise.
"And the soul of modern man is a commonwealth
By this man governable, by this man-noise-
I ask you to climb up the mountain where the grass
Is every man's-noise-sun is every man's, where
History is ready for a new chapter, where"-noise-
The telephone, carpenters, radio, what did he say
I couldn't hear let's get out of this place forget it.

I felt the whole house concentrate
Its homely mind to stand and wait.
To be within itself. To be.
To be the house by sheltering me.
I knew above this floor another,
Tall doors that opened and stood still,
And walls that kept the rooms together
As if to keep them was their will.
Weather and time were nothing, night
Was nothing, or names. I took the weight
Of the roof of the house I lived in then
On my shoulder and gave it back again.
The inner and outer walls would stand,
Based on the old deep underground,
And I thought some pride in being there
As they were built, and sheer and square,
Was what they knew. I know I trusted
Beams unsplit, and nails unrusted,
And rock in the old foundation tight
Under the house in the hollow night.

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