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Return to New Jersey

Photo by Ken Urquhart

I remember the tall, golden-grey, New Jersey grass
like feathers edging the wetlands.
Dense woods of leafless trees claim again this land where
buildings stood a century ago -- when these were hard working farms
I walk through the vine-tangled thicket on moss-softened ground,
with the first leaves of this springs violets already green
This wood smaller, and more overgrown than when I was seven.

I hoped to find the magic again —
the place where my heart could breathe for a time.
Here, now, in this New Jersey March cold
I see again the girl for whom this out-land world
was warmer and kinder than the world inside that
kindly looking Victorian farm house.

The house that was so grand and imposing
has grown small and sad with time —
as if seeing Gram herself — no longer
the voice of chastisement and accusation — no longer a
great red faced woman threatening with a willow switch —
as if she, also had grown small and sad with time,
crumpled and moldering like the remains of the wicker rocker
on the heap of ruins that was once the ice house.

The red brick school house is of an era long past —
Now abandoned and fenced all around —
as if time could be contained by a chain link fence.

These flattened, dry grasses and bare trees
have been weeping inside me ever since.
My heart stayed safe in these woods
so I could go on without it breaking
kept safe in this land — and in the barn
where imagined lives could be lived as one pleased —
where the upstairs window could be mine alone.

The barn is gone now - returned to the tangled trees —
two crooked windows lie on the ground with glass panes
still unbroken, and cracks of flaking ivory-green paint,
I the only witness
to their lost glory —
to the secret we shared,high up in the barn.

I thought I would return to that one summer day
But I see everywhere in remnants and ruins
the pieces of the heartbreak that I left here
for safe keeping.

~Anne Bach