The Old House

We thought it posh [and ourselves quite clever]
to call the old house a manor
in a manner of speaking
never mentioning
its floorboards [ever creaking] and shutters
that had no truck with a latch – and seven doors
[no two a perfect match] and seven bedrooms
with ceilings high as any ballroom [impossible
to heat] and a hall with preposterous chandelier,
fake torches and a boar’s head above the oaken table…

but beyond the eternal aftermath of fires
that had drifted from each hearth in and out
[and through the walls themselves
like passe-muraille in a gothic novel…
leaving a powdered soot on moldings
and all the highest shelves]
what makes every “old house” old, surely,
isn’t chipping paint or plaster or any
other achitectural disaster
no, it is its personal fragrance…

If I close my eyes and really try
I can find it interlaced from floor
to floor from the basement
[lined like old kegs with the dregs
of superior wines, curious victuals and foods]
to the attic that I’ll bet still excudes
the magic of plants no longer grown
[indeed no longer known!] and closets
that still retain a hint of tansy
meant to ward off bugs [and quite efficient too]
to the larder smelling of cider and
Katey-Margaret’s honest home-made brew.

I think, thinking back on all we knew
a house without aromas all its own
is just a roof above old wood and stone.

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