Friday, December 02, 2016

Cloister Ekphrastic Free Verse


This month, in our year of writing poetry together, my Poetry Sisters have called on me to supply the art for our ekphrasic poems. I've chosen to share my photos of the cloisters of Glencairn Museum, a place I love to visit. You can read about the cloister here. The mansion was built as a family home for Raymond Pitcairn and his family in the 1930s, and later turned into a museum for religious art. Of the southern side of the house a cloister garden is built, surrounded by columns carved into depictions of 12 different bird species.

This is the place I find a peaceful retreat most often now. The family that build the house was railroad/oil baron rich; sort of like an American Downton Abbey, if you will. Now the house/garden is open to anyone, so it ends up being for the people in a way. The Pitcairns built the house with the cloister to be their family home. They raised 11 children. Raymond collected medieval art, and wanted the home to display his collection. When I am there I always imagine Mildred, the wife/mother, living there. Her bedroom is just above the cloister, where she had a huge bathroom with windows over the tub (they were one of the first to have lavish indoor plumbing) looking out over the cloister, gardens, and open valley below. They also had a sleeping porch, and could spend the nights out under the stars.

Cloister Home

She gathers
on the grass; children,
wine, cheese, bread, and
veggies cut and diced.
The littles fling
round the fountain,
laughter rising
on the cool evening
air. Light soft, stone hard.
They circle her. Their eyes
bounce from bird to bush
and back to her.
The older ones want to talk.
They hesitate,
spill stories; seek what
she knows but never says.

Bold Miss will always ask -
Where is daddy?
Still at work, darling.
Here. He comes
up the hill, seeking
them in the cloister.
Where cool breezes
find and lift
sweaty smocks,
limp locks,
sometimes torn knees
or slight limps.
Nearing end of day
and no one’s cleaned up yet.

Their voices lilt
across the valley
hidden behind the stone.
Stone carved to birds;
wings, bills, eyes
downcast. We must lift
to look; they gaze low
reminding us
nothing is heavy
that sings.

And then
in the dark
all comes to rest
on the sleeping porch
above the white garden.
Above the shushing
fountain catching
peace as it rises
off the star lit 

 Please take some time to visit the blogs of my Poetry Sisters and enjoy their poems as well:

Laura Purdie Salas
Tricia Stohr-Hunt
Sara Lewis Holmes
Kelly Fineman
Liz Garton Scanlon
Tanita S. Davis 

And don't forget to visit the Friday Poetry roundup, hosted by: 
Bridget Magee at wee words for wee ones. Enjoy!


tanita✿davis said...

I cannot imagine the privilege of growing up with something SO beautiful and gracious. My favorite lines remain, nothing is heavy that sings, which leads me today right into the James Weldon Johnson poem "The Gift to Sing" (which Karen Edmisten posted this morning) --

The Gift to Sing
James Weldon Johnson

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

Use that glad defiance and lightly, faith-fully, sing on.

laurasalas said...

Oh, Andi.

Where cool breezes
find and lift
sweaty smocks,
limp locks,
sometimes torn knees
or slight limps.


"nothing is heavy that sings"

What a glorious scene you've created. Love how your stone retreat has lightened my heart!

Sara said...

OH, Andi. I love this. You've made subtle changes to the version I read, and this radiates calm and peace and beauty. I wouldn't have imagined that eleven children could produce such a thing, haha! But you've put in the real world, too, the sweat and the skinned knees and the dad who must be away and the mother who must preserve her own thoughts as she mothers. Brava. So beautifully composed.

Bridget Magee said...

" Above the shushing
fountain catching
peace as it rises
off the star lit
*sigh* So beautiful. =)

Mary Lee said...

"nothing is heavy that sings"

Thank you for the whole poem, but especially for this line.

Liz Garton Scanlon said...

Andi, I LOVE that you gave us a full narrative this time -- people we know now, hearts we understand. This is a lovely, lovely piece -- thank you for it -- and for all of the beautiful images, too...

Tricia said...

I love the story you've told with this poem ... of the people in this place. I love that you call the children "the littles." I love the lines:
laughter rising
on the cool evening
air. Light soft, stone hard.

And as others have pointed out, I adore the notion that "nothing is heavy that sings."

Thank you for this vision of the family. It's really lovely.

Linda Mitchell said...

Wonderful.....the idea of a sleeping porch. The unadulterated luxury even now.

L said...

Beautiful poetry! And now I have to visit this museum & gardens when I go to Philly again! I didn't even know this place existed. Fascinating!

Unknown said...

I love how you used photographs to spark poetic ruminations in this little project of yours. Lovely poem.