Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

It’s Still Warm By The Stove

They come, one after another. I wish they’d leave me be. It’s still warm by the stove.

I got tinder and wood ’til I’m gone and forgotten. The food still comes from the ground if you make it. Still they come and cluck their tongues and try to take me from my squalor.

Squalor. I always loved that word. The pastor would boom it from the pulpit, and the newspaper would have it from time to time, back when they could still write, talking about some woman and her cats. People don’t understand thirty cats and one dish any more because they aren’t on a farm with a pile of something worth eating they’d like to find still there in February.

I live in squalor so what. But they come dressed like streetwalkers or wandervogel or something and want to save me from it. Save me from myself. How can anybody do that, anyway?

They don’t know about the shades that tread the house with me. Gone to their reward. I could not go away from them until they invite me to join them. And I will not let you scrub their residue from my walls.

I pray over their stones, including the granite stubs at our feet where we dared not write the names for fear of breaking our hearts over and over. But they have names in my heart, oh yes, they always did. I’ve whispered them in my own ear every day.

They come in their fancy cars, skinny with mindless exertions and not work, expiating their guilt on my doorstep. But you see, my life is like a coat that’s gone shabby and threadbare and I don’t care. Many garments are not for show on a farm.

So my life is lived in squalor, and this must not be, you demand. But I take one look at you and know that you never spent one moment in squalor, but your life is squalid. You’re a gilt-edge leather-bound thirty-dollar Bible with all the pages written by Beelzebub. Not the same, is it? People didn’t use to try to save you. They’d extend their hand and call you friend. I can’t find it even in church anymore.

Leave me be, by my little fire, to be warmed by the life I lived. I’ll not join you on your icebergs.

4 Responses

  1. This reminds me of the house my grandfather build and where I grew up & lived for many years. Most of my mother’s family lived there at one time or another, some of them died there. Their shades lingered in that house, I am sure of it.

  2. Rural farm life in America is considered squalor by the over-educated. Yet, living in the mud in some stone-age jungle (oops, rain forest) where life expectancies are 45 years tops is considered authentic and ethnically correct and must be preserved at all costs.

    Am I missing something?

  3. Grumph, I have a hard time worrying about “the poor” in this country, when many of them have TV, cable, cellphones, air conditioning and indoor plumbing.

    My mom grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin. No indoor plumbing (think outhouse at 30 below) or no phone until she was 12. They weren’t poor; they were normal.

  4. “I take one look at you and know that you never spent one moment in squalor, but your life is squalid.”


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