Abandoned Farmhouse

Abandoned Farmhouse
by Ted Kooser
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

(click on the title to read the remainder of the poem)

house3.jpgI read the above poem recently and thought immediately of the abandoned houses that haunt the back country roads in Maine. Their stories are palpable. Ted Kooser imagines one story, with an ominous tone, in a setting spiked with broken dishes and spines, boulders and leaky barns. His poem inspired me to revisit an old post and some pictures I’d taken long ago, and to write the following:


Once upon a time…

The house had good bones
its story still stirs the air
like a haunting whisper
Once upon a time…

Big house
little house
back house
like vertebrae on a spine
skinned with a coat of cheerful yellow
crowned with a jaunty red roof
waving a welcome
with blue and white curtains
at its windows

Now, open windows are blank eyes
Dulled yellow paint
peels from bone-dry clapboards
the red roof bucks and heaves
a fractured spine

No bark echoes in this yard
No drying clothes dance in a soft spring breeze
No child’s laughter trills
Even the birds seem silent here


In a gaping window
the dusty curtains flutter
like a broken sigh

There is no graveyard
for houses that die

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

If you’re interested in learning about the “big house, little house, back house, barn” architecture so evident in Maine, click  here. If you’d like to read some more poetry at this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup, head over to A Year of Reading.

27 thoughts on “Abandoned Farmhouse

  1. maryleehahn says:

    Fascinating architectural history, used to perfection as poetry!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for a first of the day vivid imagery of our Maine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These poems speak to me. I have a general fascination for abandoned farm houses and just houses in the middle of nowhere. I like the sound of feel of ‘abandon’ in the poem and that sort of eerie-ness .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lindabaie says:

    Wonderful images, the pics and in your poem, Molly. I love the ending and “like vertebrae on a spine”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Property in my area is so ridiculously valuable that no abandoned houses stay that way for more than a moment before they’re knocked down and rebuilt. Good for the city, I’m sure, but it does feel like we lose out a bit on the history, mystery and poetry of these historic buildings.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As part of my work, I am lucky enough to drive along lots of backroads and see lots of farm houses–both lived in and abandoned. Your poem (and Ted’s, too, of course) capture their haunting beauty and the secrets they seem to hold.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. haitiruth says:

    I enjoy imagining those stories, too. I love your poem! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Both poems are so poignant, Molly. I always wonder what they would say, if walls could talk.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Violet N. says:

    Ted and you have given us a powerful duo. Love them both, especially the ending: “There is no graveyard / for houses that die”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. katswhiskers says:

    Two powerful poems – very well matched. Your last two lines though… They got me. Wonderful sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ted Kooser is an all-time favorite. Have you read his Poetry Home Repair Manual? It’s full of practical poetic wisdom. I love your poignant, wistful poem. It reminds me of a house I used to pass on my way back to Orono from Rockport. I haven’t been that way in years, but the memory of that sad, abandoned house has stayed with me. Thanks for the bit of history, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. jama says:

    Beautiful poem, though sad. It’s certainly fascinating to try to imagine the stories behind abandoned buildings. Your last line certainly packs an emotional punch. Enjoyed the Kooser poem, too, which was new to me. Fabulous post!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have felt this same way in Maine. I came across a foundation once in way-northern Maine. Cottage roses still bloomed on either side of the door that opened toward the coast. The stairs were gone. The walls and roof were memories. But those roses still thrived. I wonder if the woman who planted them knew they would outlast her and her house.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, I have a fascination with country settings and old homes. What you described is both haunting and sad. I have seen some of the old, abandoned farms in central NY but never heard of the architecture you describe. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You nailed this poem….I’m from a similar area in western NY. The old houses and the old barns are sad and weepy. Beautiful job using Kooser’s poem as a mentor text. And, the photographs really illustrate the sadness. Well done. I love your poem….there is no graveyard for houses that die.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your poem took me on a journey of this old abandoned house, I could feel the curtains swaying and the paint peeling, and the lack of life surrounding it. Although, “There is no graveyard
    for houses that die,” this old house and your poem have much life in them, for ones who will be open to it, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Tabatha says:

    Enjoyed your poem! All the story layered in the description, those hints of things we won’t know. My parents bought a decrepit farmhouse and fixed it up. Now it is back to being jaunty and welcoming!

    Liked by 1 person

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