The Old Homestead
                 by Corinne H. Smith

                     inspired by “Reclamation,” a painting by Joan Johnson



She stopped at the place when she came back to town –
Almost drove right past it, in fact,
For the years had made it barely recognizable.
After she rounded the curve and hit the brake,
She pulled over and got out to take a closer look;
And leaned against a post with a rusted sign
That at one time must have read “For Sale.”

The place was not as she remembered it –
And she found herself too startled to take it all in,
For she was used to a memory drawn by younger eyes
That smoothed out every wrinkle and turned old into new.
But its history was one that she knew by heart:
A century and a half’s worth of names and dates
And descendents who had all left to find success elsewhere.

It began with a tale of tradition: a man back from war
Who proposed and then built a house for his bride.
While he tended the fields and the livestock,
She saw to the vegetable garden and the children
And planted wisteria that hung from the tin roof of the porch,
Creating a cool respite from the hot Southern sun:
A space to snap beans, shuck corn, or to just sit and rock.

Now the woodlot that was once a working backdrop
Marched ever closer toward the buildings.
The barbed wire which had once kept in the animals
Was one trespasser’s misstep away from a tetanus shot.
The acreage that had once gone on forever
Had been sliced along each one of its edges and auctioned off
Until all that was left was this: the piece that no one wanted.

Yet Nature was reclaiming what man had abandoned --
New residents used paws and wings instead of calloused hands.
The purple vine did its best to hold the place together
Even as the west winds off the ridge tried to tear it apart.
It had grown tired, this once wonderful homestead;
And perhaps it wanted nothing more than to follow
In its creator’s path, and to lie down and sleep.

She visited the place several days in a row --
Watching from a distance, from the roadside:
Considering the past, the present, and the future,
For they were all laid out for her here, facing her.
How long she looked and thought, she could not say:
It was time enough for her tears to dry and her heart to burst.
Then she took the pen, and she signed the deed.

© 2011  Corinne H. Smith
"Reclamation" by Joan Johnson.  Thanks for the inspiration, Joan!

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