The Saltbox House c. 1640

How lonely sits the Saltbox House at the center of this seacoast town. Its snowy, white-wash
out of place. Its salty, silver shingles, just a reflective flash in modem glass.
Its way of life is long forgotten here where summer people come to play.
Tall city walls rise up on every side. Great Victorian bricks soak up the last rays of day
until only cinnamon-stained wisps of light float down to glint off primitive, window panes.

A visitor must wonder why the builders built it here amidst the suntan lotion and fast-food fish.
That’s when you must look past the bricks, and past the docks, and see back and back to how it truly was. For once this Saltbox House stood tall and proud. A stark white gleam against the rocky shore.
A bright beacon to those weary men, “At home at last from sea!” (once more.)

Brave souls have built this fortress here. Safe shelter in an unknown land.
They lashed their hopes to this rugged coast. Then in freedom’s name, they made their stand.
Their closest neighbor far from reach, across narrow paths of jagged rocks.
But still, a mindful comfort, being so close when winter snows begin to blow.
They labored on this hard-won soil to grow their food. But still had time for lilacs, phlox, and holly-hocks
To brighten up the constant view. A few ancient plants survive today,
To wave their cheery blossoms in a sultry, summer breeze.

But, what of the builders of this steadfast Saltbox House?
Are they gone forever? Do they weep from the Heavens, for their tiny home,
Lost and adrift in this choppy. modern world? No! They do not weep!

They have done what they intended to. They firmly anchored life upon these once­ “Far distant shores”.#

The Artist’s Dream

Spring Scattering Stars
by Edwin Howland Blashfield
Poems of Childhood
Maxfield Parrish

A Glimmer Near

I’ve pulled my chair up over there. In hopes of watching life somewhere. I’m waiting for a Spark to flare.

I hold my page with tender care. My pen is poised and held mid-air. I’d planned to strip my
Spirit bare. But there’s no Flair.  It’s just not there.

The thoughts are there.
But, not quite words. It seems I’d rather watch the birds than make my poignant message heard.
To catch a rhyme now seems absurd!

I have to say, “I’m getting vexed!”
There’s no excuse.  I’ve no pretext. This whole thing’s getting too complex.
Why I don’t even need this text!
For I know where I’m going next…

And it’s not to scribble down a thought. What’s the need now?
I forgot! All my rhymes
seem misbegot!
My mind’s a tiny, fiery knot!
It’s time to quit!
Oh, no … it’s not!

That is why I linger here.
 Even though my mind’s a blear.
I can’t admit, “I can’t”, I fear.
I’ll break through this thin veneer! I know that there’s a glimmer near!
So…I’ll wait it out.  I’ll persevere. #

Stars to Catch

And so another day winds down.
But I am not yet ready to still my mind.
Not yet ready to relax my waking grip-
to drift the way-worn currents and eddies of forgetful sleep.
For with letting go, I must bid, “Fare ever well” to this day’s promise. And slip back one day farther, from my dreams fulfilled.
For it is here in waking that I truly dream.
My sleep is no more than a ghostly veil. Dissolving in the dawn
like mist on the fens.

The salty, sea breeze cools the air.
The city sounds are hushed to welcome quiet.
Daylight creatures have long since found their beds.
A lonely car breaks the stillness…Then is gone
My sleepy cat wonders at my delay-
Still, I cannot let go The Dream. To sleep perchance to dream?
Or ‘To sleep perchance to wake, to dream again?’

But, that I will pursue tomorrow…
For I see that they have come for me at last!
They whisper, “Greetings,” from their wooden shoe.
Their golden nets are poised and ready. And I shall make them wait no longer… For sleep’s tide is on the ebb
And we have Stars to Catch! #

Wouldn’t it be funny?

Wouldn’t it be funny…
If all the tales were true?
And when at last I close my eyes-
My spirit would see you. And everything that meant so much,
To this flesh of our existence,
Would seem no more than drifting,
Misty shadows in the distance.
Alone at last with all our hopes for things we wish to be,
Unconfined by mortal chains… our love at last set free!

The pieces that were separate.
The halves that were not whole.
The yearning ache that’s lived so long, so deep inside my soul.

Forever gone the need to hide!
Forever gone the pain!
Forever gone the untold times I called for you in vain!
I wonder … as I often do.
Why fate has put me here.

And put you somewhere out of sight,
So far and yet so near?
I know this longing touches me,
And I know it touches you.

But it’s left us weak and languishing,
Not knowing what to do.

Except wait until the end of time,
And see if dreams come true.
How lonely to have lived as ones when we could
have lived as two.#

New England
Winter’s Night

The Banshees are upon us!
You can hear them in the wind.
They are on the track
of some lost soul.
And determined to get in!

They rattle at the windows.
Hurl branches at the door.
But, I’m not going out there!
It’s not me they’re looking for.

You can hear them on
the roof now!
Flapping cloaks and
thumping staffs

An Unheard Voice

From the stony, granite bones of this scrub-green landscape,
one brazen, burning bush screams out,

in carmine leaves,
its defiance of this

salt-scrubbed vista!

Sadly, unaware…

that its radiant, molten screech is just another unheard gull’s cry lost to the pounding of this
ever changeless place.

They want to be let in!
But my brave walls won’t let them pass!

When they find they have no power here­-
They wail a keening call!
Then caterwaul off down the beach.
A Howling Winter Squall!#

Sleep’s Double View

I was there again last night it seems.
That Ancient Place that fills my dreams.

I knew, again, the rocks and sea.
A well-worn path and cliffs I see.
Those gentle faces smile at me.

The air is chill and wet with spray.
The evening sky is leaden-gray.
Up rough-hewn steps, we make our way.
Our baskets filled. Our spirits gay.
Behind each stone, The Fairies play.

I shiver, but I do not fear.
I am not alone.
My friends are here.
There is warmth and food and fire near.

We share our Twilight Songs of Rite.
Bless Sister Moon. Praise Bright Star Light.
Then gather close to spend the night.

I search until I find that face,
that firmly holds me in this place,
then slip into my special space.
To sleep the night in sweet embrace.

My dreams in that world bring me here!
All things I know there disappear.
And only my time here seems clear.

Do you too have this double view?
This sleeping-waking rendezvous.
Or is this my dream…And that life true?#

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The Yin and The Yang

I wanted to write something dripping
with meaning.

What is Life? Where’s God’s Wife?

Towards verbose, I was leaning.

Then I thought, “Nah…” I’ll write something light.

I’ll have a chuckle at life.

Then I thought that’s not right.

It is the union of both. The Yin and the Yang.

Equal halves make the whole. As it’s been since… The Bang?  

You can look at the halves and the wholes that they make-

Without Death, there’s no Life.

 Without Sleep, there’s no Wake.

Without Night, there’s no Day.

 Without Sky, there’s no Earth.

 Without Young, there’s no Old.

 Without Dying, no Birth.

Without One, there’s no Million.

Without Hot, there’s no Cold. 

Without Fat, there’s no Thin. 

Without Shy, there’s no Bold.

 Without Dark, there’s no Light.

 Without False, there’s no True.#

A Cupola or ‘Widows Walk’ is found atop many
New England East Coast mansions-
It is a tiny, aerial, fenced-in landing from where

the Wife of the Captain’s house can first see his
returning ship crest above the horizon.

As this sad name suggests…
many times their anxiously awaited ships did not return.

The Widow’s Walk
…And so, she climbs again the stairs,
That lead up to her prison where,
She spends her day in anxious prayer.
She wrings her hands in her despair.

She paces out her tiny cell.
Where every day she’s drawn to dwell.
As if bewitched by some strange spell.
She stands a seaward-staring sentinel.

She sees no mast cut through the sky.
No flash of sailcloth greets her eye.
The screaming seagulls laugh and cry.
Is it joy or doom that they prophesy?

She regards the town from her woeful nest.
It is quiet, yes- But there’s no rest.
She knows each home must brave this test.
There is a nagging dread in every breast.

She clutches tight her shawl of lace.
A tender gift from some distant place.
And she scans the sea for some faint trace.
Numb to the frosty day’s embrace.

Cruel evening bells are sadly rung.
Her day’s watch wanes with the setting sun.
Another lonely day is done.
She drowns in sleep’s oblivion.

Till dawning wakes her with a start!
A new day’s come! Hope fills her heart!
She sees her weeks of fears depart.
“Today will end our days apart!”

And so she climbs again the stairs,

That lead up to her prison where,
She spends her day in anxious prayer.
She wrings her hands in her despair…#

Salt Marsh Roses

Salt Marsh Roses

Salt marsh roses blazing in the sweltering, summer sun.
A filigree of tangled thorny branches,
crown this winding row of carefully piled stones.
Stones that have stood here the centuries.
The centuries since they were drudgingly dragged from
every inch of this ancient ice-scrapped land.

A winding wall of stones, a mark of early settlement.
For here once gardens grew!
The sea in time has shifted its fickle profile,
placing this hard-worked dirt too near the tide,
to be of any planting use today.
And so this abandoned plot grows in unkempt.
Unvisited by the scythe and plow.

Now the rampant roses reign unchecked.
Every inch of sunbaked stone is thick with clinging vines.
The vines are glazed with ice-pink blossoms,
that glow like incandescent snow upon the ancient bark.
The tiny windblown petals drift down,
to lay a luminous carpet upon the dank and salty soil.

The seething canopy of bees interlace their shadows,
As they frantically gather their sacred golden pollen.
Their selfish efforts unwittingly secure the bird’s survival.
For later on, the fertile rose hips will swell and ripen
in the abundant harvest, the cooler weather will bring.

For now, the birds are content to wait.
They nestle luxuriously in the fragrant matted vines.
Every rocky crook is lined with sweet salt hay
carried excitedly from some adjacent meadow.

The ancestral nests are kept in readiness.
For even in this soothing, welcome warmth…
The ocean’s crashing waves…
Count out the waning, summer seconds.

For here, among the winding rocks and salt marsh roses,
not even the flaming glory of the molten, summer sun
can entirely erase the menacing memory of icy winter winds.
For summer here is just a precious lull.
A reflect-full, healing warmth before the leaves begin to change
and all brave hearts must turn once more
to face the arctic breath of screaming winter gales!

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All images and writing are copyright Mary Lee Mattison 1/8/1981 All rights Reserved.