After the above black and white photograph by Jared Carter

Who alive remembers who lived there
seventy years ago? A family
of WASPs set in their ways? The leafless tree
in front was just a sapling then. Despair
did not weigh heavy on the owner’s brow,
a man who paid his taxes, loved his wife,
and who in ‘44 gave up his life
for freedom. Who today cares or knows how?
And now the house is boarded up, its last
tenants peddlers of cheap crack cocaine,
its naked boards exposed to elements,
its roof’s tar-paper caught in the grey blast,
around it dirty snow, above it rain.
The photo knows itself what it laments.

—first appeared in Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture 2006

 

Leo Yankevich’s latest books are The Last Silesian (The Mandrake Press, 2005) Tikkun Olam & Other Poems (Second Expanded Edition), (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2012), Journey Late at Night: Poems & Translations (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013) & The Hypocrisies of Heaven: Poems New & Old (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2016).  More of his work can be found at Leo Yankevich.com.

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14 Responses

  1. Connor Rosemond

    Leo: I appreciate your use of enjambment. The poem is given a more “modern” feeling while still retaining traditional elements, such as the iambic pentameter and rhyme scheme. You also do an excellent job creating a distinct sense of place; I would be able to imagine such a house even if the photograph did not accompany your poem. Great work!

    Reply
    • Leo Yankevich

      Hi, Joe. I’d like to express my gratitude for your comment. I lived in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for a year (1986-87); my home town was very similar. Now it’s gone.

      Reply
  2. Leo Yankevich

    Linked below is the street where I grew up (Hamilton Avenue). You can’t go down it, as Google doesn’t want you to. This once had (the 1970s and earlier) beautiful yards and gardens. The houses were humble but clean.
    https://www.google.com/maps/@41.2165424,-80.4993191,3a,75y,182.49h,88.16t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sBsYzfbYMbOhIyyiLUNbxEQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DBsYzfbYMbOhIyyiLUNbxEQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D137.00385%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100

    If you turn right you’ll see the former main street (Idaho) where there is nothing left but desolation. Detroit looks like this as well.

    In 1960, it looked like this, when Kennedy visited us: http://pennreview.com/caputo.jpg

    The policemen on the far right is our friend and neighbor, Bill Caputo.

    America & Europe will look entirely like this if we don’t stop the libtards.

    Reply
  3. Sally Cook

    Leo –

    True and stark, your poem chronicles far more than the sad destruction of one house. With its last gasp, that house speaks clearly to us about what is happening to our country; it has watched as the barbarian hordes break society.

    Like Kant, I’ve always believed that objects have some sort of self-knowledge. we are witnesses to this and more.

    Symbolism has many uses; you are its master and you never disappoint. Fine poem.

    Reply
  4. C.B. Anderson

    Count Leo.

    Nobody cuts to the chase or exposes the true grit any better than you do. You are an exemplar for anyone who would see him- or herself as a purveyor of raw truth.

    Reply
    • Leo Yankevich

      CB,

      I am essentially a neo-baroque poet (metaphysical) in which turpism (from the Latin “Turpis”:ugly) is not eschewed. Baroque poetry has its roots in Italy, not in England.

      I don’t live in a fantasy-land, at least intellectually. Here is a translation from the Polish of a favourite Polish poet, Stanisław Grochowiak, published in Trinacria years ago, which is neo-baroque:

      CAROL

      They come slowly—loiter, you might say,
      Some with olive oil splashed on their bums,
      Others with enormous crooked thumbs,
      All full of holes like sculptures on display.

      Broads… up to their elbows in sweet cake;
      Widows…clad in blizzards of mock snow;
      Ladies… so thin that their skeletons glow;
      Tarts…with three nights of fasting in their wake.

      Animals: a goat, two rooks, a camel,
      (A camel from the ZOO with a pierced lip),
      A spitz that wears a ribbon and a slip,
      A raven perched on some strange nameless mammal.

      The three kings last: one with a face of gauze,
      The second with a jaw made out of plaster,
      The third as beautiful as alabaster,
      Though his crown’s sharper than the teeth of saws.

      They stand and watch. The mother, mid trees, swings,
      Sprawled out, her feet rocking back and forth.
      Sometimes a drop of silence hits the floor,
      Sometimes a mouse squeaks, or a stone sings.

      How long can the foetus keep flesh mired?
      How long can the star fall in our marrows?
      Sometimes a mouse squeaks, or boulder carols,
      And this is all, so far, that has transpired…

      —translated by Leo Yankevich after the Polish of Stanisław Grochowiak (1934-1976)

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        A Beautiful and fantastic poem It reminds me of a Medieval manuscript, where angels fly and everything seems to have a voice..

  5. Fr. Richard Libby

    This poem tells a sad tale of one house; it could apply just as easily to any number of houses. Well done, Mr. Yankevich!

    Reply

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