Old Timer

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.

Old building printed on to a paint chip sample from the paint store, using an inkject printer

Old building printed on to a paint chip sample from the paint store, using an inkjet printer

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.

6 thoughts on “Old Timer

  1. Claudia,
    What a fantastic photo and a wonderful poem. The poem really penetrated my being! Thank you.

  2. Oh, I’m so pleased you like it. Thank you. And I wonder if you know this building yourself; it’s on W. Johnson St. I plan to check out the progress myself very soon, and I’m so happy it will be useful again.

    This poem just appeared in my mind. I did very little to it after I wrote it down the first time. I really do think these thoughts have been in my mind for years and just came out at that one time. Funny how things work that way, isn’t it?

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