Poem for Saturday: All Our Foundations are Gone

There used to be a house here
snug against the hill
three floors
and steps to an upper terraced yard
in this impossible spot.
Breakfasts, dinners, Christmas trees, hot summer nights,
births, deaths, first days of school, graduations, conspiring teenagers,
changing colors of paint and people.
That was before the road was this busy
and its door opened right into traffic.
Now all that is left is a limestone foundation
and broken plastered walls with faded pink paint
embedded into the layered shale hillside,
and a chipped whitewashed alcove where the Blessed Virgin Mary
once spread her hands and watched over the home from the upper terrace.
Soon even that will be gone
and a new road will carry away
the last memory of the founders of this place,
but foundations are beyond physical presence,
and ours to build upon.

poem All Our Foundations are Gone © 2010 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I am always sad to see old neighborhoods decay and fall to the wrecking ball, buried under with the backhoe. I’m not against progress, and sometimes a neighborhood has lived its span and is ready to be removed. But for better or worse, those old neighborhoods carry memories of individuals and the collective, people lived and died there, and they are the foundations of what we are today. Without them we are in danger of forgetting both the good we’ve done, and the bad, at risk of forgetting our roots and also repeating the same mistakes we made in the past.

This photo was taken in a city neighborhood, obviously on the top of a hill with an incredible view, a Victorian-style house that fell to decay after standing empty a decade or so and needed to be taken down for the safety of the neighborhood.

The poem was written as I watched what had been a two-lane road out of the city, which had at one time been a thriving neighborhood all on its own, wither as the road became busier and wider, and the homes and businesses closed and stood unused. Seeing the stately old houses, some with lace curtains still in the windows, fall apart and be removed, revealing the pastel paint colors of the walls, faded flowered wallpaper, the structures of what people had made their own home place, thinking of the lives and events that might be forgotten in the process, I wrote a reminder of what might once have been there.


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