My father built the log cabin in which I grew up. It was built beside a Civil War–era farmhouse in the Virginia piedmont. That old farmhouse was in such disrepair that it had to be torn down, but the chimney remained along with portions of the foundation. We re-used many of the building materials and artifacts in our home and work shed.
The presence of the chimney caused me often to wonder about the lives that had gone on before us. It stood there in the evenings, stolidly manning its station as if its owners might return, or were in fact just then going about their lives. I wondered if their lives and dreams somehow became intermingled with our own. Perhaps it is so.
What’s in a chimney
long after the house is gone?
There is a length of rusted stove pipe
fallen into what must have been a kitchen
around which children
might have been dressed
after their bath
in the washtub.
One raises walls here in the forest
for a warm place to sleep, a future.
To sit with Mary after sunset,
the lantern setting off her straight jaw
and the lace against her neck
on the blue calico dress she made.
from the collection Dancing the Haw