He stands by the rock wall and roses,
stares across the valley at Northfield hills.
Sometimes, it seems, he just comes to cry.
Our driveway, house, lawn where he waits,
are on land clawed and leveled from rough
pasture that sloped uphill from his home.
Our garden, snug inside its fence, was
his back yard. There are visits from many
who once lived here, tugged like ghosts.
Some stay and wait for recognition.
I go out to stand with him. “I know the house
is gone, but I don’t have any other place.”
A hummingbird thrums past, lands
for sugared water on the red plastic feeder.
“What was that?” he calls out, astonished.
“You must have seen them when you lived here.”
“Oh no, they hadn’t come up with them yet,”
he says. We watch it drink and dart away.
I know what he means. Each year it feels
my eyes create the chestnut-sided warbler
singing all over this garden when I first
put its tiny body and its slender song
together. And every June the grief
of apple blossoms stuns me with departure.
I say, “Wait,” go inside, find the chipped
white aggies streaked with blue the soil
keeps offering, return them to their owner.
— Scudder Parker
Scudder Parker grew up on a family farm in North Danville. He’s been a Protestant minister, state senator, utility regulator, candidate for governor, consultant on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Scudder has published in Sun Magazine, Vermont Life, Northern Woodlands, Wordrunner, Passager, Eclectica, Twyckenham Notes, Crosswinds, Ponder Review, La Presa, Aquifer and Sky Island Journal. His first volume of poetry “Safe as Lightning” was released in June 2020 by Rootstock Publications. The poem Recognize was first published in Twyckenham online Literary Journal. Visit www.scudderparker.net
This poem by Scudder Parker feels very relevant these days when home and place has become ever significant, when so many have been uprooted or displaced because of life changes or the desire to be closer to family in these challenging times. In the case of the poem and the visitor who wanders by, it seems that time and the natural course of things are why he no longer has his home, but we don’t know for sure. The strong ties to home, whether the house we knew or the land we grew up on, often never leave us.
This sense of longing comes alive with the line “tugged like ghosts” to describe the visitor and others like him, but we’re also jolted into a new place with the hummingbird who flits in for a quick drink and darts away. This tiny creature has come for sustenance, and I can’t help but see the visitor in this way, drawn, like the bird, by his instincts and need.
The poem’s rhythm has the feel of always moving, traveling through, reflecting the idea that we really are all just wayfarers on this Earth. How fortunate for the visitor that he has been able to venture back to this place he once lived, and find himself welcomed to stay a while and receive what is still his — To linger with the speaker in what feels like a shared awareness of the deep connections to home and land, the kind no one can own.
Susan Jefts is a poet and educator from Ripton and the southern Adirondacks. Visit manyriverslifeguidance.com to learn more about her work.