For Sepia Saturday #201, a collection of photos of my father's house in Elm, Michigan, and a poem of his that evokes at least the interior very well.
|Lost for twenty years now that large photograph
Of my father in his long room at Golden,
Colorado, in 1901, surrounded
By books and sunlight.
The young teacher from Michigan, his forehead
High and broad, his fine black hair center-parted,
Rugged and hopeful as Lincoln, at his desk,
Shakespeare beside him.
Before he taught at Victor or Cripple Creek
Or had Lowell Thomas as a start student,
Or won my mother’s hand away from Ralph Carr
And the music store.
In one corner of the room, piled high with books,
Was the slatted wood, metal and leather trunk
Brought to take all his books and clothes from Detroit
Clear to the Rockies.
On my last night in Michigan, he and I
Climbed to the spare bedroom long used for storage,
Where my mother’s dress dummy stood among toys,
Found the old trunk there,
Unmoved since I was born, carefully removed
Teddy bears, dolls, games, and three children’s clothing,
And carried it with ceremonial joking
Down the long staircase,
Past the ceiling-high cases of well-read books,
Past faded paintings of six great composers,
Past the two old stoves and the battered table,
Out through the kitchen,
Down the back porch where all of our dogs had slept,
Across the yard full of oaks, maples, and pine
Where we live in photographs of forty years,
Past the old red barns,
And loaded it into Ramsbottom, the Dodge.
My train was to leave at dawn for Seattle
From the ornate red brick depot in Ann Arbor
Where he had arrived
In 1896. Across Middlebelt,
Beyond the fragrant pastures of horses and Holsteins,
Half a mile away stood Elm Woods, flower-filled,
Venus above them.
I could hear far off, down at the Beech crossing,
A Diesel, not an old steam locomotive,
Coming on the Pere Marquette. Then my father,
Standing in the back door in Indian summer
Twilight, his children gone, my mother long dead,
But in his old aura of steadfast love, gave one
As Beth and I drove off into the future.
On the way to Seattle, on the Great Northern,
On the far side of the Rockies, I remembered
The lost photograph.