Coyotes crawl from the dune grass
before Stella Maris Retreat is demolished.
Vultures feast on the grand old hotel,
peel the skin of ornate wood in the entry,
dismantle the grand staircase
saved from President Grant’s cottage,
another causality of East Coast redevelopment.
The wrecking ball thunders.
Machinery clears a path through the house,
ripping off the nun’s quarters on the third floor,
fifty bedrooms on the second floor,
down to the foyer, office and sand.
A gaping hole on the circle drive spans what’s left.
Two ends of the house temporarily stand.
The dining room and lonely chapel
hover fragile as the wings of a Monarch.
A brief respite— before four new estates are built.
The retreat house looks like a two room cabin,
with a swath of open air down the middle.
Sea wind rushes through—
no more eating and living here,
no more dreams and prayers.
The wind tunnel frames what remains.
Breakers roll and toss from sea to empty sky.
*Stella Maris Retreat House in Long Branch NJ, USA, demolished April 3, 2019 Photo credit: Elsalyn Palmisano
I’m waiting waiting waiting for rapture
according to my Baptist friend,
the end of time for my Amish neighbors,
another Big Bang for science.
Time stopped for me
when Russia sent ships with missiles in the Bay of Pigs
when JFK was shot
when ML King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated
when we sent a monkey into space
when man walked on the moon
when the space shuttle Challenger exploded
when the twin towers tumble
while species die on the planet,
half gone in my children’s lifetime.
How will my granddaughter know the season
when songbirds stop singing in spring?
Will a time come
when bats no longer tangle with twilight?
When honeybees on clover
don’t sting running children’s bare feet?
When there are no monarchs in milkweed to see?
No polar bears, tigers, elephants in the wild.
The few left are held captive in zoos.
Barnum and Bailey’s closed,
wild circus animals no longer parade in small town streets.
It’s time for a change from fish that aren’t farm raised and fatty.
Time runs short for planet earth and my granddaughter.
When There Was No More
After: “Mourner’s Kaddish” by Ginsburg
I had what happened, no more,
I lost my brother, they lost a husband and father.
This can’t happen, my brother said.
His wife and daughter were his life.
No white flag, no surrender.
The two he loved were here.
For a year in hospice, he refused to go.
He held on to his family.
I won’t leave you.
Nothing will part us, he declared.
Mobility, sight, language, balance —
all stolen but his desire to live.
The night he died in a coma,
his wife says: He kicked the ceiling.
I woke at his call, roused our daughter,
we ran downstairs.
I crawled in the hospital bed.
He died in my arms, our daughter at the beside.
His ashes live on the Appalachian Trail,
near his favorite campsite.
He’s present in the swirling Milky Way,
a trout who leaps under a billion star pricks.
My brother happened,
Parkinson’s doesn’t matter.
The dairy next door listed for sale last August.
I miss marathon loads of black britches and jackets in ascending sizes
hung next to white dress shirts, towels, cleaning rags,
segregated from black dresses and aprons in all sizes.
I miss the plow boy driving teams of work horses,
screeching metal wheels on horse drawn wagons and carriages,
forty cows parading from milk shed to pasture.
Amish farmers make good neighbors.
They call themselves plain and simple.
A peaceful people, they teach their dogs not to bark,
no raised voices, no loud music spills from their houses
as it does from local English-speakers.
They live in harmony with noisy neighbors and animals:
clucking free range chickens, crowing roosters,
nickering horses, bawling cows, honking geese.
Clip clopping carriages pass on Macadam.
Grating, clanking wagons lumber by.
Roaring generators, day and night, keep milk chilled.
Work hubbub stops the same day the sale sign’s posted.
My husband blames the silence on ceaseless downpour.
Staked signs for Save Our Local Dairies argue with that.
Yard signs are red-and-white: red (for danger), white (for milk).
A cheap corn-fed milk glut from mega-factory-farms
competes with small herds of grass eating cows.
News reports blame an over-supply of milk for its low price,
the cancelled milk contracts and small dairy collapses.
I keep close watch on the abandoned farm.
Corn, hay and tobacco, tall and lush, stands for months
until rain knocks it down and the harvest rots.
The farm’s on the market seven months later.
No livestock, empty paddocks, fallow land.
No buggy parked out front,
no horse to pull one.
No large family works the land
and still the rain keeps falling.
The chicken coop collapses,
a scatter of boards on the ground.
But someone still lives there.
Every couple of weeks, new laundry appears –
once two, another time four black dresses
pinned on the line give me a reason to hope.
Date Published: 7-30-19