Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hearth Song

image borrowed from bing

Hearth Song

“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul,
& yet no one ever came to sit by it.”--Vincent Van Gogh.

Our house was 
built in 1953, 1,500 square
feet upstairs, with

a full daylight
basement. We assumed residence in
1993, inheriting a

home already inhabited
by spiritual passers-by; both
frightening & fascinating.

Never the same
figures, all strangers just trying
to get home

themselves, trying to
find their way through the
maze of separate

dimensions, who stopped
to rest at our hearth,
before moving on,

resuming their journey;
a couple on the love
seat, a soldier

in a WWI
uniform, a young girl in
a shawl, holding

a rag doll,
a teenager in a poodle
skirt, a logger

wearing plaids; fully
revealed, just politely visiting, attracted
to our fire.

Our fireplace is
massive, a double-decker, with
full hearths upstairs

& down, with
a complicated fleu system, its
tiles fire-baked.

At first we
used it a lot, buying
several cords of

wood, & stacking
it on new pallets alongside
the house, &

yes, we fully
enjoyed the primeval fascination of
staring into open

flames, listening to
it hiss as it consumed
alder, fir, &

pine, warming ourselves
by sitting on its rainbow
rock shelf, &

there were several
winters that we kept the
home fires burning

for weeks unending;
but somehow, the love affair
waned, as enforced

burn bans, the
outrageous cost of firewood, the
filth & clutter

left on rugs
from hauling fuel to feed
its dragon maw,

& miscalculations with
the fleu, smoking up the
whole house, just

soured our ardor.
Now the basement fireplace is
covered with plywood,

then further mantled
with moveable shelves of DVDs,
erasing its existence.

Upstairs we keep
the tall brass shield erect
to discourage our

tiny grandchildren from
crawling up into it; standing
cold--flameless for

years; just remaining
decorative, something to hang holiday
swags & wreathes

upon, stones to 
dust, a silent roommate, a
mute companion, where

Hestia & Vesta
no longer hold court, abandoned
by janyas &

specters alike. Maybe
we ought to rekindle that
flame this winter,

& let them
all know that we miss
their visits, &

now they are
more than welcome to drop
back in--to

enrich our home
life, to be recipients of
our genuine hospitality,

to rebuild our
connection to the portals covered
with sad ash. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets MTB

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Anonymous said...

A fascinating glimpse into your worldly and other-worldly realm, Glenn. Loved the travelers as they stopped by on their journeys - and then the flame of your love affair with the fireplace diminishing to the sad ash - loved that - sad ash. K

Björn said...

Oh a fireplace can be a wonderful place to spend an evening.. (winter friday's only).. I'm sure it's worth resuming.. for us we still get all the wood we need from our garden...

Mary said...

Glenn, I enjoyed this history of your hearth really. I also understand how warm it must have been to sit around the fireplace all those years. I lived in a house with a fireplace once, but didn't use it...not wanting the mess involved. Now I have a gas fireplace which suits me JUST fine. But reading your ending, Glenn, and with the coldness of the winter so far, I do think it might be time to rekindle the flame!

Brian Miller said...

dude..i would love to sit by your fireplace...i miss a fireplace....kinda neat to think as well of all those that have passed by it...the ghosts of family and friends past....

aprille said...

Thanks for the reading. It is a great combination.
In a way my PC is the new hearth
and not in a bad way.

Anonymous said...

I remember warming the kids clothing for school by hanging them on the spark arrestor before the sun was up. This prompted me to recall that and I thank you.

Abhra said...

I am living in a house which is no less than a hundred years old and after I moved in I'd get the almost same feeling as you have mentioned. Really enjoyed the poem.

Claudia said...

oh heck... you should def. re-kindle that flames.. it's good to have the warmth from an open fire...even though it's messy....visitors are messy as well sometimes...yet...what would be a home without them..

Nara Malone said...

Lovely, spooky, and sad. I like that idea of a double decker hearth especially in relation to the opening quote. I think I know a person or two with a double decker hearth inside.

Anonymous said...

God I used toi heat my whole house with a wood burning stove. What a mess. >KB

Marina Sofia said...

We didn't use our stove at all last winter, although we love looking into the flames... shame really, when practical considerations take over and trump romantic notions...

Anonymous said...

I firmly believe that houses absorb what inhabitants leave behind. I really enjoyed your journey.

Beachanny said...

I loved this and was fascinated too by the ghostly visitations. More so by the intriguing fireplace. I'm afraid to light mine now a I haven't had a fire in it since I bought the beach house and with frac(k)ing going on beneath and the redistribution of land for the drainage project ongoing the house is in perpetual shift. I'm afraid there's cracks in the fireplace that might allow embers to spark in the eaves. Kept thinking earlier to have someone look at it, but had the same reasons you list not to. So I have wood from a downed tree in the yard and an empty hearth. Seems a shame doesn't it. Loved your work. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Lupe Eyde-Tucker said...

Fireplaces are something that always fascinate me and I like the way you memorialize your family's history with the one in your home. We had a similar old house, built during wwi and during the 60's or 70's a previous occupant decided to cover up the fireplace with a huge wall mirror. I've never seen the fireplace, but its like the hidden heart, a secret behind the walls.

Gabriella said...

I love fire places, especially at other people's houses! I could feel how your family enjoyed the warmth for weeks on end. The poem is very warm too - pun intended.

Victoria said...

Wonderful account, Glenn. Old homes have their stories and their visitors. Living in NV where there seems to be so many reported hauntings, this fascinates me. I love the incorporation of Vesta and Hestia. And I'm grateful that our fireplace is one of those gas ones...though they lack the smell of burning wood.

Anders Vaksinius said...

It sounds like you live an interesting life. *smile* A good thing about shutting down the fire place is that the ghosts cannot be burned. *smile*

kkkkaty said...

I particularly like the ghostly visits from Christmases past... your hearth sounds like a lot of older homes, but I'd rather have an old fireplace instead of a newer gas one...I hope you are able to get those visitors back this Christmas present and in the future, for it adds so much atmosphere..

billgncs said...

I wonder how they see us, if they yearn for the fireplace's warmth...

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Thank you for this wonderful history of home and hearth.
I often wonder of what went before - what has happened in this very space I am occupying now. I would love to know.
I do miss open fires, the crackling hearth and the warmth they allowed - a room and family centrepiece.
Anna :o]

Joseph Hesch said...

There are times, when I see the photos you share and the stories/poems you write, that I wonder "What's Glenn's place like up there in the Northwest?"

Never knew I'd find out in such a beautiful, introspective and personal piece of poetry. Lovely work, Glenn.

blueoran said...

Age goes this way -- the hearth goes silent. Sometimes the poet's voice is silenced, sometimes loves ebbs away, sometimes is just the sense of home engendered by that circle of warmth goes cold. What's great here is knowing how much there is to lose, and the lucky awareness that there's still time to light a match.

Akila G said...

Fascinating details here and the coupled lines of three jump from one scene to the other. A wonderful home I must say!