I read your statement of purpose with pleasure. I really loved the Thomas Hardy poem. I wrote the enclosed poem below as a kind of response to our trip to PA in 2005. I was sawing up some wood one afternoon and the poem just came and got me. I think the reason why I study genealogy is quite close to yours.
The inspiration for the poem was John Howard my ggg grandfather who is interred at Friedens. Joan O'Dell was there with us and also to the site of his farm on just south on Williamson Road directly across the road from Sam and Elizabeth Carroll's farm. Catherine Carroll Weaver lived there.
It wasn’t really John’s saw
That carved the branch into fire logs -
Its blade severing rings of time.
The saw was mine but was just like his.
Resting for a spell I thought of John:
Clearing his spread by the Williamson Road,
Building fences, raising his barn,
Or, like me, cutting wood for the hearth.
But perhaps I didn’t “think” of him at all.
Since John lives in each cell that I am,
He may have just stirred a little within
To recall pioneer paths we once had trod.
The long branch shortened
As John and I pistoned our arms
In unison across centuries
Slicing through time and space -
Stacking fuel to warm a cold winter’s night.
Robert C. Howard - 2006
Sam peered at his watch,
Followed the arc of its hands
To the top of the hour
And slowly pulled back the throttle.
Engine138 groaned and thundered
Its way out of Blossburg station
In a cloud of smoke and steam -
Whistle shrilling over the Tioga valley.
Powered by coal
The train carried coal
To the teeming city of Elmira
Where Sam with heart heavy laden
Would visit his ailing mother-
Perhaps for the final time.
The wheels turning on iron ribbons
Spread across Pennsylvania's farmlands,
Turned like other wheels before
Moving America westward
To plow its fertile soils -
Wheels that had rolled his grandfather's oxcart
To the green hills of Lycoming County
Now new wheels turned toward urban landscapes
Drawing America like electro-magnets
To their streetlamps, factories and dry-good stores -
New crops for a modern age.
Elmira’s silhouette grew on the horizon
And Sam pulled the train in on time -
Brakes screeching through billowing steam.
His wife, Jenny and his sister's Sam
Came in a horseless carriage
With Zoe, Marie and Edward,
Children now grown at their side.
They all gathered at Hannah's side
Now approaching her final days
Soft voices and fragile smiles
Cradled the truth that required no telling:
Time, ever advancing
Like the hands of a fine old watch,
Holds us all in its circling sway
Robert Charles Howard
Jimmy Collins made a dash for the door
Shouting to the silhouettes at the bar,
“Lock up for me boys, the baby’s coming.”
All the men cheered
And struck their glasses together.
Relief and joy swept over Rose and Jimmy
Filling their souls to bursting -
The memory of that first arduous passage
Fading under the light of resplendent love
Asleep in her mother’s arms.
* * *
* * *
* * *
The radio crackled and spoke,
“Houston to ‘Endeavor,’
Good morning, Commander Collins.”
And Eileen fell out of one dream into another.
Beyond her window a hazy blue ball spun slowly.
How was it possible for the Earth to be “there”
And for “here” to be any place else?
200 miles below James and Rose
Looked up in wonder at the sky.
Robert C. Howard – 2006
I’d jump at the chance to ride shotgun
On Henry’s Medicine Wagon
And travel from City to Village
Hawking Stickin’ Salve and Oil of Gladness.
We’d roll into Elmira’s County Fair.
I’d fix Diamond a bag of oats
And pour her a bucket of water
While great, great grandpa
Would arrange the bottles on their shelves
And put on his GAR uniform.
Henry’s voice is a megaphone
And people would gather close -
Drawn by this self-taught hypnotist
Who speaks like a preacher of miracle cures
And weaves tales of Civil War battles.
Then he’d swear on his mother’s Lumbago
That the Stickin’ Salve is just as strong
And works just as well
As the lead and powder
He’d fired at Spotsylvania.
They’d toss back their heads
And laugh when he bellows,
“I’m Henry Howard from Bunker Hill
Never worked and never will.'
The women would tug at their husband's sleeves.
And they’d bring me their pennies and dimes.
After dusk we’d count up the coins
And latch down the wagon for the night.
At sunrise I'd wipe his brow
And gently ease him back
From the thunder of enemy shells
Still firing in his restless sleep.
We'd cook up some bacon and biscuits
Then hitch old Diamond to the wagon
And head south through the rolling hills
Along the Tioga valley.
We’d breathe in the fresh county air
And tip our hats to the farmers.
If Henry would come to tap my shoulder
Some promising morning in spring
And whisper 'the wagon's hitched outside, '
I’d go in a Pennsylvania minute.
|A bridge is a curious thing to cover.
Mile upon mile of naked road -
Then a wooden box over stream or ravine.
Why not cover the road instead
Perhaps it was meant for Currier and Ives
Or maybe it was built to be a kiosk
No, all our covered bridges, real or figural,
The Brick Church Road leads to Friedens
Where yesterday and today,
Wooden carts and steel wagons
Powered by equine legs or fiery pistons,
Ferry their most solemn cargos.
After the preacher's comfort tonings
Of walks through the shadowy valley
And eyes lifted to the hills,
After fresh grass flourishes
Over the sealed earth.
The granite stones whisper,
"Remember our bearings and sirings,
The banners we carried,
Our triumphs and stumblings.
Sound the words and tunes of our jubilant songs.
Never forget that we are you."
Robert Charles Howard
In memoriam Asher and Franklin
Farmers flocked to the Blossburg mines
willing their abandoned plows
to perpetual dust and rain.
Burrowing into the Tioga hills,
they swung Keagle picks and sledges;
piling tram cars full with carbonized nuggets.
Black diamonds - carved for the hungry boilers
of New England mills and trains
and winter bound Pennsylvania stoves.
Brothers Asher and Franklin bent their backs,
exchanged jibes with the other hard hats
and brushed away coal clouds in the tunnel.
The coughing seemed slight enough at first
like a pesky seasonal cold or flu -
but worse was to come from their sooted lungs.
Pain and choking drove them to their beds
where the medic's art proved futile.
Then the coroner came to seal their eyes.
A stonecutter marked their earthly brevity
on an obelisk in Union Cemetery
that pays no homage to their sacrifice.
Robert Charles Howard