Here’s a picture that inspired a poem. I took the original photo of this building a few years ago – it’s not far from my neighborhood. At the time it was in limbo – could be rehabbed and renewed, or could be torn down.
Cruel Old Age
Sun strikes the one angle of the facade
without graffiti. The orange bricks
of this old building
are warm even without the light
but I can’t ignore the shadows
just around the corner
the overgrown evergreens
huddle in them
from the foundation
all the way up to the second floor.
Still, the windows are a generous size
to let in the light
I imagine the empty rooms inside
warm and silent. Aware.
Right now I could think
the building still has a chance
since the shadows
haven’t yet overtaken it
turned it cold and dead
The printing process I used for this picture is described in a post I wrote on my art blog: Not Following Directions.
I wanted to use the picture in a mail art postcard – actually, I wanted the whole image to be the postcard. So I cut it out, pasted it to one side of my usual piece of cereal-box-cardboard cut to 6″ x 4.25″. Then I realized I had not planned anything for the reverse, a blank brown expanse of cardboard.
I could have just written in the address and stamped the card and let it go, but that was not enough. Looking at the picture brought up memories of walking around the grounds when I took the pictures (trespassing, I know). It was a beautiful fall day with a perfect blue sky and puffy clouds streaming across it. Looking at the picture reminded me of the sadness I had felt for something so solid, so full of purpose, so carefully constructed, no longer fulfilling a function. And possibly never coming back to usefulness again.
Very quickly I wrote this poem, but I think it had been in my mind all this time. I have used this photo as a reference for a collage portrait of the building, and I exhibited the photo in a camera club meeting, too, I think. So I have looked at it again and again over the years.
In real life, there is a happy ending to the story, though. This building is in the process of being converted into senior housing. A neighboring building, also endangered, has been completed and is back in use. If you’re interested, here are some details.