The Jackson House

In this big empty house the Jackson boys grew up,
their horseplay and squalling through these hallways,
up and down these stairs, imprinted on the woodwork,
echoes still in the flowery swirls of faded,
flaking wallpaper:

Gaunt Percy, the elder, late in his eighties still
mincing inconceivably up Railroad Avenue to buy
hisself a little something soft and digestible at
the Blue Lake Market, then sidling home again
like a ghostly soldier of a long forgotten war,
slowly past the vacant Standard station he once
ran, its pumps rusting like old grave markers;

And Martin, his brother, younger by a year or two,
stocky as Percy was thin, and gruff as an old bear,
a Lucky Strike forever dangling from his lip,
beloved Fire Chief of the volunteer department
until his health failed him, dead these many years
and buried at the old cemetery;

As if the Jackson boys still cry in bitter whimpers
from these dry and rustling shadows, "Here!
Here we passed our finest hours long afore
you'uz a gleam a'tall in yer dead pappy's eye!"

That tide of human joys and cares, which once
washed o'er these well-worn sills
and rough-trod thresholds, washes still,
washes and withdraws,
for me as once it did for them.

--January 16, 1990 (rev. 2010)