Photo: Ghost marks on the bricks at Poplar Forest.
MEMORIAL DAY AT POPLAR FOREST for C.B.A.
rode the ninety miles
two days on horseback
three by carriage:
this octagon villa
his retreat from public life
Sated on soda bread
a magnum of wine
we stretch out under the farthest surviving poplar
watch cumulus clouds dock and dissolve.
One evokes a falcon
its swoop of wings, its talons.
Above us, the bough trimmed severely,
the poplar's leaves crowd in along remaining wood
as if to compensate for phantom limbs.
On the house tour we learn
Tom's slaves cast and laid a quarter million bricks
according to his design directly to clay
with no foundation.
After one hundred eighty-seven years
the skeleton of bricks remains intact
paint scaled off a coat at a time
then plaster, all stored to stoppered test tubes:
archaeology essentially a de-constructive process.
Ghost marks on bricks
reveal a mantel here
a chair rail there,
let us glimpse the future restoration.
I prefer this bare brick:
strained backs of men and horses
beneath the great man's surfaces.