"Poetry is a conversation that the living have with one another,
in the company of the dead and the unborn." - from A.E. Stallings
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stand dark, the welcome door is held fast.
brick walls, the bell has rung.
feet and playful voices once gathered.
with a class on the swings and bars.
So keen to
learn – a jest – not all so eager
school mistress bell to sound the start.
seat, hands folded, sit straight for teacher.
books open, the lesson’s begun.
hand of an earlier mistress
pens, though her hand held a quill.
the same land, a poet’s page was her canvas.
her own, with goodly words instill’d.
In the verse
that she wrote – to her child not yet born –
was it meant
for those who gathered here each morn?
saw far to your red brick namesake.
nod your assent, to what your words began,
learned under your good gentle name?
taught – as by your own careful hand –
and teachers you trained,
that guided the build of this frame
on to other rooms, other doors.
mistress is left, behind her fence, her gate.
made, by town citizens okayed,
brick lady will stand no more.
stores, in-town homes, and a plaque.
mind’s eye, and a gift, in the heart
with town colors of scarlet and black,
of those in
her care who studied and taught,
with the spirit of sturdy red brick.
gentle spirit of our mistress poet,
with her own
at her knee as she taught and pen’d,
on to those who were not yet born,
on to those who guide with sure hand,
on to those who teach all as their own.
When this brick
lady is gone,
yet understand –
school is still here.
school still stands.
2014 North Andover, Mass.
The poem had its start this past December when I drove past the then shuttered Bradstreet School. Somehow that day, the sight of the old school building sitting by itself behind the closed gate, surrounded by the snowy schoolyard, gave me an idea for a poem. My daughter had gone to kindergarten at Bradstreet when it was last in use as an Early Childhood Education Center. I felt sad to see it sit there empty and unused for so long, and I felt this even more keenly when the town decided that it should be torn down.
For a few weeks I mulled over these thoughts. Then I parked there one Saturday afternoon in December and put the thoughts on paper. The poem is what resulted.
I’ve enjoyed reading poetry all my life, but only recently read Anne Bradstreet’s poems. I was really amazed at how good and accessible they are, even after these centuries. She was a really remarkable woman. And this town was her home. I tried to capture something of the spirit she conveyed, and my feelings about Bradstreet School.
I've since heard that Bradstreet School was actually named after Anne's husband, Simon Bradstreet, who was governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But where Simon spent much of his life away in Boston in service to the colony, Anne lived and wrote here in this town, and I feel that the name of Bradstreet School is hers as much as Simon's.
I’ve written poetry before, but was especially happy to write a poem about and for North Andover. I hope people enjoy it, and think about all of those who dedicated their lives to teaching the children of our town over the years - and centuries.
If you'd like to read some of you Anne Bradstreet's poems, you can find them here: http://annebradstreet.org/annes-poems/ The site is the work of "The Friends of Anne Bradstreet", chaired by Karen M. Kline, Poet Laureate of North Andover.