Chimney Farm

Jul 6, 2017

Today’s poem is "Chimney Farm", by Gary Lawless. Gary grew up in Belfast and owns Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick. He’s the author of 17 books of poems, most recently Caribou Planet.

He writes, “In 1986, when her mother Elizabeth Coatsworth passed away, (the poet) Kate Barnes asked my wife Beth and (me) if we would live as caretakers at her parents’ (Henry Beston and Elizabeth Coatsworth’s) home – Chimney Farm, on Damariscotta lake in Nobleboro.

Kate kept her horses at the farm, five Suffolk Punch draft horses and a pony. One of the horses, a stallion named Ironside Jack, spent most of his time in a paddock and stall, and we would see him watching over the farm, with his head over the stall door. I thought that it would be fun to stand in his stall and look out over the farm from there, taking in the real and imagined views of the farm, a farm which has served as muse for three generations of writers – Henry Beston, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Kate Beston Barnes, and now myself. This farm lives in the hearts and imaginations of many readers, but it is also a very real place. I was trying to find entry into both of those worlds.

Chimney Farm
(June, 1987)

There is an empty stall in the barn where Ironside Jack the
stallion lived. Last week two Amish farmers and their driver
came and took him to Pennsylvania along with Sally the mare.
From Jack’s stall in the barn you see the farmhouse:
weathered, red, and surrounded by flowers. Beyond the house
you look east over the horse pasture and down to the lake.
There are vegetables and wild lupine off to your right, and the
place where the town road ends. Near dusk the horses walk
to the fence gate, hoping for grain. These horses haul our
winter wood, turn the earth for our gardens. They give us
warmth and life. Jack was like the guardian spirit of the place,
always watching everything from here in his stall. Across the
lake, cottage windows reflect the setting sun. Birds fill the air
with sound. The light in the kitchen is yellow. Fog moves in
behind the islands and everything starts to quiet. Later the
loons will call from the cove. We will sleep, dreaming of
wind, of rain, horses moving in the barn, and loon song, loon
song pulling us into the dark water. We dive under, dive
under and come up, somewhere else.

Gary Lawless
Caribou Planet, Blackberry Books 2015