Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > Anthology of Massachusetts Poets
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. (1878–1962).  Anthology of Massachusetts Poets.  1922.
Fallen Fences
Winifred Virginia Jackson
THE WOODS grew dark; black shadows rocked
    And I could scarcely see
My way along the old tote road,
    That long had seemed to me
To wind on aimlessly; but now        5
    Came full to life; the rain
Would soon strike down; ahead I saw
    A clearing, and a lane
Between gray, fallen fences and
    Wide, grayer, grim stone walls;        10
So grim and gray I shrank from thought
    Of weary, aching spalles.
On stony knoll great aspens swayed
    And swung in browsing teeth
Of wind; slim, silvered yearlings shook        15
    And shivered underneath.
Beyond, some ancient oak trees bent
    And wrangled over roof
Of weatherbeaten house, and barn
    Whose sag bespoke no hoof.        20
And ivy crawled up either end
    Of house, to chimney, where
It lashed in futile anger at
    The wind wolves of the air.
I thought the house abandoned, and        25
    I ran to get inside,
When suddenly the old front door
    Was opened and flung wide
And she stood there, with hand on knob,
    As I went swiftly in,        30
Then closed the door most softly on
    The storm and shrieking din.
A space I stood and looked at her,
    So young; ’twas passing strange
That fifty years or more had gone        35
    And brought no new style’s change.
The sweetness, daintiness of her
    In starched and dotted gown
Of creamy whiteness, over hoops,
    With ruffles winding down!        40
We had not much to say, and yet
    Of words I felt no lack;
Her smiles slipped into dimples, stopped
    A moment, then dropped back.
I felt her pride of race; her taste        45
    In silken rug and chair,
And quaintly fashioned furniture
    Of patterns old and rare.
On window sill a rose bush stood;
    ’Twas bringing rose to bud;        50
One full bloomed there but yesterday,
    Dropped petals, red as blood.
Quite soon, she asked to be excused
    For just a moment, and
Went out, returning with a tray        55
    In either slender hand.
My glance could not but linger on
    Each thin and lovely cup;
“This came, dear thing, from home!” she sighed
    The while she raised it up.        60
And when the storm was done and I
    Arose, reluctantly
To go, she too was loath to have
    Me go, it seemed to me.
When I reached old Joe Webber’s place,        65
    Upon the Corner Road,
I went into the Upper Field
    Where Joe, round-shouldered, hoed
Potatoes, culling them with hoe
    And practised, calloused hand,        70
In rounded piles that brownly glowed
    Upon the fresh-turned land.
“Say, Joe,” I said, “who is that girl
    With beauty’s smiling charm,
That lives beyond that hemlock growth,        75
    On that old grown-up farm?”
Joe listened, while I told him where
    I’d been that afternoon,
Then straightened from his hoe, and hummed,
    Before he spoke, a tune.        80
“They cum ter thet old place ter live
    Some sixty years ago;
Jest where they cum from, who they ware,
    Wy, no one got to know.
“An’ then, one day, he hired Hen’s        85
    Red racker an’ the gig;
We never heard from him nor could
    We track the hoss or rig.
“Hen waited ’bout a week, an’ then
    He went ter see the Wife;        90
He found her in thet settin’ room:
    She’d taken of her life.
“An’ no one’s lived in thet house sence;
    Some say ’tis haunted,—but
I ain’t no use fer foolishness,        95
    So all I say’s tut! tut!”


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