House o' tin— original verse poetry
and photos by @d-pend —
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House o' tin
As long as I can properly recall,
I've lived with grandpa in our 'house 'o tin.'
Now I ain't sure if that's what it's made of,
But we all call it that, and all the kids
Refer to grandpa as the ol' tin man.
I live here with granpappy, we alone
Are masters o' the trains that come an' go;
Afore a midnight train comes rumblin' through,
I feel a subtle rumblin' in my bones.
One early mornin', round about to five,
That feelin' stirred me outta mornin' dreams.
So I threw off the covers, got me dressed
And went out to the eastward-facin' porch.
Granpappy, he was out there, rockin' slow:
His leath'ry hands around the ancient pipe
On which he puffed tobacky from Virginny
And thought about the gone an' faded years.
He kept a-facin' east, his chair a-rock,
The wind a-blowin' smoke from that ol' pipe
Straight past me, fragrant clouds off to the south
When I approached and sat upon the deck.
A moment passed in silence cool an' dark;
Our usual companionship we had
Where neither of us spoke, but only thunk
About who knows what: least of all ourselves.
And so his voice came soft, but thunder-like
into my ears expectin' nothin' — loud
As hammers' crack upon receptive wood,
As trains' wheels flowin' on the groanin' track.
Well son, you know I built our house o' tin
With corrugated steel, and wood, and scrap
Way back in sixty-three, so 'long the rails
An outlook there would be, to count the loads
That came to be dropped off, or ta'en away.
I was the overseer of the track,
An' 'cept for ol' downtown the wild sprawled
Away off to the south, and north, and east:
Out lonely east, where lays the fam'ly farm.
On up til' seventy I labored here,
I left the farmin' to my other kin.
I met your granmammy in seven-one;
Two years we spent together here in bliss.
She had your ma in winter seven-three,
When harsh the icy wind incessant blew.
And that damn wind that froze the fallow fields
It froze her, too, and carried 'er away.
Your mama was my joy, my everything;
She grew up like a dandelion bright.
So quick, it seemed, until your papa came
To ask her hand, in marital delight
To spend their idle days of buddin' youth.
And that was in nine-three — your dear ol' dad
To join the railway co. he did decide
To aid me in my duties sentinel
For your sweet ma, conspired to provide
By sweat o' brow and toil o' his hands.
For seven years we labored faithfully;
The town around upswole like mushrooms strange
And pocked the jungle like so many blights
Upon the nat'ral beauty of our home.
During then too, did your great-great-granddad,
My daddy, float away in tides of time;
And great-great-grandma too, she followed him
To some more gentle place, some heaven's clime.
We tried, your dad and I, to keep the farm
A-goin', 'twixt the two of us to trek
A-back-an'-forth between the ol' tin house
And that ol' lonely farm out to the east.
We sold it off in summer ninety-nine;
It was with heavy, and a mournful heart
That I gave up our sweet ancestral plot —
To some cold strangers' hand I gave the keys.
And then came the new cen'try, bittersweet
What with your daddy's fateful accident,
But sweet with your arrival to the world:
A hopeful beacon for the years to come.
Thank God your lantern shone through my despair
When in '05 your mama's auburn light
Did flicker, ebb, and dip below the sky
To burn her joy in some far better world.
I've seen a lot of sorrow in my days;
You know that, son, and know my wish for you—
That you should leave our humble house o' tin
And seek some destiny among the stars,
Among the wide-flung countries o' the globe
To see what can be seen, and to hear more
Than just the rumblin' of familiar track
That runs its veins across our brambled yard.
As he spoke, the sultry sun arose;
She blazed the clouds into a ruby light.
And I imagined ma, an' pa, an' them
A-ridin' in some gloried chariot
A-lookin' on the balmy fields below,
A-watchin' on our humble house o' tin.
Original writing and photos by Daniel Pendergraft,
created to be posted to HIVE on May 9th, 2020.
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