Old Prairie House

The kids and I attended a Living History event today, which inspired me to search out some meaningful Native American poetry. I listened to Diane Glancy speak once in Minnesota. Here is part of a poem that holds extra meaning for me since I am often wondering about the relation between actual old houses and what they mean to people. I live in one of those old houses, and I don’t often feel the memories, all those lives that have taken place on the same floorboards I tread daily. But other people, strangers to me, they feel I live in a very important, very special house. And so I feel irreverent and disrespectful. But, I reason, if it weren’t for good old practical me and my need for a place to live, this house would be disintegrating, unlived-in. So what is better? Disrespecting an old house’s past by living in the present, or letting an old house go neglected so its memories can live on more potently?

Anyway, here is the last part of the poem that speaks partly to this issue:

Survival of facade
when content does not endure
one part has nothing to do with the others
all is hollow
ramshackled
but house still stands on prairie
customs still leap on points
of delicate prairie grass
where the bright bauble of the eye
blinked once too often.

— from “Old Prairie House Between Tulsa and Bartlesville on US 75” by Diane Glancy, 1986

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2 thoughts on “Old Prairie House”

  1. Thanks for posting this! I love that section of the poem. There are some old empty houses, in varying states of returning to the elements, on my husband’s family’s farm, and they always catch my imagination… but I think living in an old house would probably drive me nuts with its various inconveniences.

    1. We did remodel the inside before moving in, so it’s not inconvenient, but in the process, we wrecked a lot of old stuff (what else were we going to do with it). Sometimes I think we erased parts of history that still existed, even if they were crumbling. There’s a lot to consider when you start thinking about living history.

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