Rendering Ruins

A barn abandoned, left to drift alone,
wind torn and breached upon the reef of time;
fields, now dust, where summer wheat was sown,
the wagons heaped with grain stood long in line

to fill the grange of this once mighty ship,
now but a shadow, listing, ghostly gray.
Raw winds and pelts of rain how cruelly whip
the wounded roof and soak the rotted hay

—the roof, an April green in days before,
a farmer’s name upon it stitched in white.
This ark of kittens, bawling calves, no more.
A rat gnaws on a crib, the final rite.

Yet on this easel, raised by bardic hand,
forgotten barns, forgotten not, still stand.



Leland James is the author of five poetry collections, four children’s books in verse, and a book on creative writing and poetry craft. He has published over three hundred poems worldwide including The Lyric, Rattle, London Magazine, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, The American Poetry Review, The Haiku Quarterly, The American Cowboy, and The Ekphrastic Review. He was the winner of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and has won or received honors in many other competitions, both in the USA and Europe. Leland has been featured in American Life in Poetry and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
www.lelandjamespoet.com & https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/leland-james

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14 Responses

  1. kate farrell

    I like your poem – shades of “A Forgotten Garden” by A.C. Swinburne?

  2. Cheryl Corey

    This poem evokes a sense of nostalgia and sadness for all the once-sturdy red barns that are now slowly falling apart. The only question I have is regarding the line, “Raw winds and pelts of rain how cruelly whip”, shouldn’t it read “now cruelly whip”?

    • Leland James

      Actually, either one would have a correct sense. I meant “how ” as an intensifier. Idiomatic. Thanks for reading.


  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    In line 5 of this poem, note that Leland is using the word “grange” as an unusual metaphor. The word literally means a large barn, or a farmhouse with its attached land and properties. But Leland speaks of the grange as a “once mighty ship,” and the metaphor’s terms are reversed — “grange” now means the hold of a sailing vessel rather than a barn.

    This involuted metaphor is deliberate, since in the previous quatrain Leland had described the ruined barn as “drift[ing] alone, wind-torn and breached upon the reef of time.” These are clear nautical and marine references, and they are reinforced in the third quatrain, where he speaks of the barn as an “ark.”

    A less accomplished poet might have just said “This ruined barn is like a shipwreck.” But Leland had created a dazzling fictive artifact that goes far beyond that simplicity.

  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    Absolutely beautiful description and metaphorical composition that evokes — instead of wallowing in— deeply meaningful emotional responses.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Leland, your powerfully painted poem makes me think of the poisoning of the Vendee land by genocidal French revolutionaries. The demonic leftists were not satisfied with killing the human population that had resisted revolution; they did their best to render the region incapable of future farming. Evidence of this appalling crime against humanity and nature still stands in ruined barns and fields of bizarre weeds, even after more than 200 years. Although you don’t mention any reason for your barn’s abandonment, your poem applies well to the loss of civilized cultivation anywhere, for any reason.

  6. Leland James

    Thanks to all who connected with this poem. Your comments are more than appreciated, they are sustenance to me. Some poets write to express themselves to themselves–and I think this is a wonderful aspect of poetry, self discovery. I am not of this group. Without a reader, for me, I, as a poet, do not exist (might be after I’m dead, but still there is for me an essential element of the motivation to write). A message for me needs a receiver. I do not want to be a tree in the forest that falls and no one hears. God bless the spirit of the tree that strong. So, thanks for taking the time to comment. It means much.

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    This is an exquisitely beautiful poem that is an absolute privilege to read… the beauty of being a member of this site. Thank you, Leland!

  8. Gary

    Wow! What a fine piece of Poetry, Leland. Loved reading it. the mood, the word choice, the pictures! and how it fits and flows together to make a perfect whole. Congrats!


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