Kate Falvey

On the Hawthorne Road: A Study

“Stand back, my Lord, and let the coffin pass,”

declaims the young Nathaniel on a day over-thick

with lake mist and the thaw from winter’s more

ominous tales. Like that of Samuel Tarbox

and his wife, who froze in a drift by their own

front door, the food for their brood hefted in a block

into a straining gust of hemlock,

Mrs. Sam’s spent, frantic shawl

braced across the outcrop of her

husband’s shoulder blades,

driving up through the massy snow

in brittle black sticks of fringe.

 

The eldest from the huddle of five children

blew and blew a horn, a bone-thin wail needling inside

the wail of the bony winds. Heeded, the children

were scraped like candle wax from their family hearth

and flung this way and that –

near-sheer flakes of malleable shivers —

re-shaped and rekindled in the arms

of morose and kindly strangers.

Nathaniel’s Uncle Richard took

the famished toddler, Betsy,

and Aunt Sue made sure

that springtime rose again.

 

Nathaniel roams the Dingley Brook

to Thomas Pond and sites along the sunrise to the misty

hint of Rattlesnake Mountain. His fowling piece

is more a loaded prop than any sort of tool, something

picturesque to heft, and manly to regard – a memento

from his sea-claimed father, held in trust by Uncle Richard

and provided when the thicker woods of Maine made

weaponry essential. There was still a lurking slink of

panthers peering from the brake

where the brookies clustered in a cove at Panther Pond

and rattlers denning in the crags he liked to hail and climb.

Primeval though the region was, there was a road

that sliced up Quaker Ridge where the new-built meeting house

took clear and reverent stock

of the distant mountains of New Hampshire.

 

 

The Hathornes, distant mountains of his past,

would not have wished godspeed to Quaker neighbors

with any hint of grace or sufferance.

The ancient unmapped woods

could never have been big enough

for peaceful coexistence

and the Quakers would have needs been

shunned, reviled, and rousted.

He could almost hear the rustling

grave clothes of his fathers

in the soughing of the winds

and sense their wizened scorn

in the eye-like chinks of Pulpit Rock

as he swapped his pocket knife

with young Rob Cooke, his comrade

and a Quaker.

 

And the home that Uncle Richard built

with all his wealth and whimsy,

dragging glass from Belgium on a dray

through rutted staging roads

and a clock of rich mahogany, elegant and gilded,

chiming the long tale of its survival through the parlor

every hour. The wall paper from England, the hewn pumpkin pine,

the rays of the iron sun embedded in an arching window,

welcoming the light above the door.

And a library with Shakespeare and with Sydney,

Illyria and Arcadia in the wilds of Raymondtown,

the words illumined by the fir fire crackling

scented shadows through the gloom, poems,

more than just medicinal or diverting,

flung like prayers

to the stilly miles of thick black ash and pine.

 

Uncle Richard takes pains to duplicate the stately

hip-roofed lines of his own unlikely dwelling

when building his sister’s home

on a rise nearby his own. He knows this is a place

where Turkey rugs and silver candelabra

can lend an air of civilized proportion

but not define the limits of a mind,

where wildness stirs and meets its howling match

in children, even girls, and this incandescent boy

who roam and dream unchecked.

 

Nathaniel and his sisters scrabble still

for huckleberries that cluster in shrubs amidst

aged white pine that may have even been mature

when Hawthorne was a boy.

I see them through the misted morning chill,

chasing along the boulders of Sebago’s eastern shore,

Louisa slipping once and clutching her brother’s steadying

hand, and Ebe, the eldest, watching the woods with

a preternatural concentration as if charging the air forever

with her own fleet, unbridled girlhood.

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Kate Falvey’s work has been widely published in an eclectic array of journals and anthologies.  The Language of Little Girls, her first full-length collection, was published in summer 2016 by David Robert Books. She also has published two chapbooks. She edits the 2 Bridges Review, published through City Tech/CUNY, where she teaches, and is on the board of the Bellevue Literary Review.

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About Copperfield

Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer’s Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.

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