Poem: Never Fatal

Never Fatal

The small clapboard house is empty.
In the spring it is overwhelmed by kudzu a thistles
and here in the winter ice covers the vines
and the rooflines barely emerge.

You have never seen the building whole
and somehow, over a lifetime of traveling
past the overgrown farm, parts of it stand still,
all roofline and chimneys.

Today you stop. It is time to see what is there,
what once was. What could have been.
You carve your through the frozen vines
to the dark, empty doorway,

The floor collapsed long ago. There is dirt underneath.
Light comes through the glassless windows.
The stone hearth looks unchanged, unbowed by age.
On the mantle is a single blue plate – Blue Willow,

sun from the window strikes it, a reminder
that people once lived here. A family.
Dinners were shared. Holidays. Love. Death.
Swallowed by time, kudzu and abandonment.

You breath in what is left of that life,
and break loose a few floorboards,
stack then in the stone hearth,
and set them alight.

For a time, there is light. For a time, there is warmth.
You wonder what it all looks like from the road.
Does anyone notice the smoke in the chimneys
or flickering orange in the windows.

It is not enough
Not enough to save this space from its fate,
but enough to remember and give thanks for what was.
Death is never fatal, unless we allow it.

About this poem.

I am remembering my mother today. I am remembering my grandfather in Surry County, Va. I am remembering the people and times and places I have lost. And in the remembering, they live. Not so important to them, I suspect. But important to me.

The picture was taken along I-81 in Virginia, not far from the Natural Bridge exit.



  1. Good for you, for going inside and saying hello to the little house! – Ellyn Couvillion, Baton Rouge

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