Last summer, driving to Vermont, I detoured past my grandparents’ dairy farm. That’s how I think of it –their farm, on McGhee Hill Road–even though it’s been almost half a century since it changed hands, bought by city dwellers who turned the barn into a house and the house into guest quarters.
This time, instead of crawling past in my rental car, I parked. The new owner came out and against my will I started crying. She showed me around and I pointed out where the Christmas tree used to stand, where the long dining room and pantry used to be, the bedroom with the secret doorway.
As a little girl my sisters and I spent a week every summer at our grandparents’ farm, roaming the woods and fields and barn, going to Dairy Queen for ice cream. My grandmother, big efficient whirlwind of a farm wife and English teacher. My grandfather, tall and lean and handsome, washing up with Lava soap at the soapstone wash sink, a man who didn’t finish high school but could recite endless poetry.
You can’t ever go back. But the past lives inside you, and it can’t ever be taken away, either.
Wake-up Call, by Armen Davoudian
I can see my mother, apron over her nightgown,
setting the table for breakfast, a stack of lavash
steaming at the center, honey and milk skin,
feta with fruit, chickpea-and-chicken mash
dusted with cinnamon. I can see my father,
already in his coveralls and cap,
filling a cup to the brim with hot tapwater
and emptying it into another cup
and emptying that cup into another
until all three are warmed for tea. I can hear
the kettle whistling and pull the covers tight
around my head, against the coming light,
for any moment now they will open the door
and lift the covers and find that I’m not there.
For more information on Iranian poet Armen Davoudian, please check out his website.