Of the barbaric rites
Of our young days,
Fraternity rush at Chapel Hill,
A kind of ritual mutilation:
Invited, I suppose, because I’d been to
Boarding school, but quickly turned away,
Not at all like them, tailored heirs of
Planters, silver flasks,
Harris Tweed sports coats at football games,
Kinston, Goldsboro, Rocky Mount,
The place that would have me—
Frame house without Ionic columns—
Refuge for northern boys
Come south to school.
A year later I was the brother who escorted
Two or three baffled freshmen to the porch
To explain we had not gotten
To know them well enough.
I am ashamed of that
And much else besides.
Have only been back two or three times since.
Once a young man found our picture
From fifty years before. Is this you, he asked.
I had to say it was.
I still keep up with two or three of them;
With one, a neighbour now at Golden Pines,
I share a glass of port
And rue the passage of time.
People come to the cottage now
To help us with different things,
Fix the computer, cut down trees,
Cost of being seventy-two.
The computer guy brings no special tools,
No Allen wrench with which to probe
The hard drive’s dark insides,
Except for which I might leave
My brain to science,
Only keystrokes, clicks of the mouse,
Things some do for themselves.
The cottage next door is for sale,
Realtor’s sign incongruous on our dirt road.
My parents’ friends, also long gone,
Left it to four children who have reached
That tired, timed impasse of heirs:
Those who would keep it can’t afford to
And vice versa.
So there are grandchildren
Who will not know
These New Hampshire woods, this pond.
Still I would protect them and us
From the dead white pine
By the turtle rock—
I remember the storm that took its life,
Lightning running up and down the bark
In a silver-black night.
The woodsman, of course, does have special tools—
More than that, he knows
Exactly where the tree will fall.
Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.