The View From Straw’s

South Hill Farm 4

Here, two fluttering counties are taking a wink,
up amphitheaters, right and left,
bending over hillocks into empty air,
rope-walking birds skim past beneath.

The woods run down below,
across creek lines,
slithering like snakes, hobo blankets
molting onto brown remembrances,
against the powers of hayfield and wood.
The gypsy moth has crept with needlesome jaw
across the green world fading like a scrim.

Murder hides behind our little tract,
he’s a bony devil, knuckle lumps
rapping his frying pan, while underneath,
the crack of terror burns.

Up country the furious beasts of pandemonium
wildly devour each others tails,
and seesaws rise and fall across Galactic gulfs,
a bucket of water rises in the Malacca Strait,
upping the level in Chile, and spattering on our shore.

But for the moment, our premiums’ paid,
we hang transfixed up the tattered air
where merely to sleep and wake is to walk through miracles.
Higher than eagles, here comes luck.
Making a bargain with the hungry firmament.

© Andrew Glaze 2015, from his book Overheard in a Drugstore

In the late 1970’s — 90’s, our family getaway consisted of eleven acres of grassy hillside in Pine Plains, New York. Two hours north of Manhattan, on the border of Duchess and Columbia Counties, the back-to-nature lifestyle there provided a Henri David Thoreau style experience that we enjoyed for its peace and simplicity.   After a year or two of tent camping, we purchased four 10’ x 10’ wooden cabins from a defunct children’s camp. One was to be used for spare parts, two were for my parents, and one belonged to me and was set apart from the others.  As soon as the cabins were delivered by flatbed truck and mounted on cinder blocks, my father showed me how to replace a roof, door, an entire window, and glass panes. He’d learned these skills back in the early 1950’s. (To learn more about that, read the poem “Bill Where Are You?”).

 Happy in our simple cabins, free of electricity, plumbing, and phones, we gradually added a metal tool shed, a pavilion of slender tree-trunks topped by fiberglass roof panels to shelter our picnic table, a rock walled outdoor grill, and a free standing outdoor sink that drained through a hose into the ground. My father liked to joke that he planned to write a book on “Chainsaw Carpentry”, and became quite creative at it.

 In his 2002 book Remembering Thunder, my father named one of the chapters “Stissing’s Children”.  This was because Mount Stissing was the highest point around Pine Plains and we could see the top of it from our property. The simple fact that the first poem in that chapter is titled “Thoreau Again” explains my father’s viewpoint.  Southhill Farm became a retreat where he happily worked on his poetry, tried organic gardening, literally “primed the pump” before drawing water, listened to Mets baseball games over a battery powered radio, watched star formations at night in complete darkness, and invited favorite neighbors to join us at our picnic table for a glass of wine with grilled steak, corn on the cob, and vegetables from the garden. Eventually, my parents insulated their main cabin and added a wood burning stove to it.  After that, they were able to stay longer in the fall, and visit earlier in the spring.

When the time came to install a manual water pump, we discovered that the local Water Douser / Deviner was recommended as the starting point.  He arrived for the appointment looking as normal as my grandfather, pulled out a V-shaped tree branch, held one end in each hand, pointed it towards the sky, and started roaming the property. When water was near, the branch would fight his efforts to keep it pointing upwards and twist itself downwards. “That one’s about 15 yards underground” he’d pronounce, “Now let’s see where another one crosses it, to increase the volume”. At least once, he had to cut a new tree branch because the old one had wrestled itself into shreds. After his departure, each of us cut a V-shaped tree branch and wandered the property hoping to discover we had untapped skills for dousing.  I concluded I had potential.

The acreage behind our land was the fly in the balm of our peaceful existence. The owners were year round residents who enjoyed hunting, with a son who’d drive a noisy all-terrain-vehicle into their back woods to shoot target practice. The foothills around us would reverberate the gun shots like a timpani drum at Carnegie Hall. My softhearted parents immediately nailed “No Hunting, Private Property” signs all around our borders.  Bambi and his friends ate our flowers, vegetables, fruit from our trees, and were undeterred by organic efforts to discourage them, but we still loved them.

Straw and Debbie were a young creative couple from Manhattan with a property uphill from ours. Everybody enjoyed Straw’s goofball personality, and Debbie was happy to join the ride. They also had cabins and placed them at the highest point on their hill with a view overlooking the countryside. I remember they had something to do with film production and eventually decided California was the place to be. With that goal, one day they said their goodbyes, and headed West.  Only problem was, their overloaded truck soon began strewing belongings like breadcrumbs for Hansel and Gretel. They stopped, regrouped, and finally continued on their merry way.  Afterwards, Straw called one of our neighbors to give him an update on their misadventures.  Word passed down the grapevine and everybody agreed, “Sounds just like something that would happen to Straw”.  He and Debbie promptly became local legends, and we never saw them again.

By the late ‘80’s my parents had moved to Miami and the trek to upstate New York became a very long one.  By the mid-90’s my brother and I both had children and lived in Pennsylvania.  We brought them with us to Southhill Farm several times to share the experience we’d always enjoyed.  My daughter now says I referred to Pine Plains as “The Country” so often that she thought that was the name of the town. Eventually though, it became too much for all of us to make the long drive to get there. My parents were growing older, and so were my brother and I.  The property was eventually sold, but I know the times he spent at Southhill Farm were some of the happiest of my father’s life.  At times I yearn for the simplicity of those days, remember a lilac tree I started from a single branch that was huge by the time we left, and ponder whether the town still has just one traffic light. My father preserved his memories as poems. I chose to preserve mine as photographs.

—E. Glaze

Southhill farm 3
Planting a fruit tree.
Southhill farm 4Behind our cabins. Andrew and Adriana Glaze in the foreground. The organic garden is on the right, with grape vines along the fence.

Southhill farm 7
Our campsite grew more sophisticated every year.  Adriana is standing by the “sink”.

Southhill farm 8
Reading a book.   On the right is our “icebox”. Behind my father, lying on the ground, are the boards that were used to create the pavilion roof shown in the previous photos.

Southhill Farm April 1986
Writing.
Sothhill farm 10
Napping.
Southhill farm 8
My brother (standing) and stepmom (sitting), before we had cabins at the bottom of the hill.
Southhill farm
And I became the queen of collecting wild flowers.

All photos are the property of Elizabeth Glaze and the Andrew Glaze Estate..

Sunset Rock

                                         ”Said Billy Rose to Sally Rand’’

Father Sun is just settled down in a red haze
up the farthest slope of the  Ramapos, when suddenly out
from   the dusk with a rushing and a tinkling,
we’re  assailed by spectral shadows. They swirl our way
down through the sun-careening fire-dazzled woods.

They’re the show girls, draped in Jean Harlow  dresses
scissored down to the buttock-nape.
They shriek tinnily in high double heels, giggling and slipping
on shiny Phillipine grass, they spill their  bathtub gin
and stand for a moment , lifting their glasses
to toast the sun’s wild footlights off to the West.

They’ve tittered like ghosts down from Billy Rose’s house
on the rise behind, with its English windows and grey slate roof,
its paneled jazz-age rooms.
By the old liquor closet at the unused central flue,
you can almost hear the Volstead dicks come ghosting up the drive,
with a wail, from Wampus Pond and Armonk, down below.

They’ve come, with a great scattering and screeching and to do,
draining the bathtubs, the ghostly Vermouth and Juniper juice,
pouring it out among the actual roots
of the memory trees, where they soar
skyward, like the joyous dream of a lark.

None of them glows in the effulgent sunset
or lays out what blazing road goes by, opens a ghostly door
or fades the light down silent driveways of the imagination.
They are frolicking, a thing and a place where we can never be or go.
Salute their voyage!

© 2015 Andrew Glaze, from the book Overheard In A Drugstore

There is a school-yard style poem about burlesque dancer Sally Rand and Broadway Producer Billy Rose, which, when read aloud correctly, is obscene.  I had completely forgotten the ditty until I looked up Sally Rand on the internet and rediscovered it.  Afterwards, I remembered that when I was a teen, the topic of Sally Rand came up one day and my father recited it in amusement. Sally Rand and Billy Rose have long since left this world, but the poem remains.

Said Billy Rose to Sally Rand,
“Do your dance without your fan!”
She did her dance without her fan;
Billy “rose” — and Sally ran!

In reality, Billy Rose didn’t just have a house, he had a giant mansion known as “Rose Hill” in Mount Kisco, just outside of Manhattan in Westchester County, New York.  Built in 1928, right in the middle of prohibition, chances are great that they really did have bathtub gin parties.  “Volstead Dicks” is a reference to the detectives responsible for enforcing the “Volstead Act”  that made alcohol illegal between 1919 — 1933.

Rose had several wives, one of whom was the famous comedienne Fanny Brice.  A composer of more than 400 songs, at least 50 of which were huge hits, including, “Me and my shadow”, and “It’s only a paper moon”, Rose became an impresario, producing shows for both stage and screen.  In 1936, he produced, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch” at the 1936 Fort Worth Centennial as part of his Casa Manana show at the fairgrounds.  She was best known for her burlesque routines using giant feather fans to artfully peek-a-boo her way through sensual dances. 

I’m not sure what inspired my father to come up with the poem.  My stepmom and I have not been able to remember anytime when he saw the house in person, but it’s possible we just weren’t there at the time.  Or, perhaps he read an article about it somewhere.  There was an enormous fire at Rose Hill in 1956, but the mansion was rebuilt afterwards.  It wasn’t until 2019 that another fire completely destroyed it.  At this very moment, you can go on-line and purchase undamaged stained glass windows and a stone fireplace that remained.  Billy Rose passed away in 1966, but a new replica of Rose Hill is currently in the process of being built. Clearly, the public is reluctant to let it slip away and vanish.  I like to think that it’s because they enjoy envisioning the same ghosts that my father imagined. 

….”Salute their voyage” indeed.

—–E. Glaze

Sally Rand
Sally Rand in one of her feathered burlesque costumes.

Billy Roses home facade
The facade of Billy Rose’s home in Mt. Kisco, NY, “Rose Hill”.  A birds eye view revealed the full extent of the size, which consisted of extended wings behind the front of the building.

Billy Rose residence interior
Historically, the word “flue” means the chimney itself.  This is a photograph of a room in Billy Rose house.  To quote my father’s words, “Paneled jazz-age rooms.
By the old liquor closet at the unused central flue”.  Currently, if you have a yen to share history, you can buy the entire mantel for $25,000.

BLUE RIDGE

—–A Lament

It’s the best road between truckways climbing into miles,
and here come Buckthorn, Hemlock, Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron,
shotgunning everywhere, into light and dark,
our motors’ let-up punctuated with red-eyed-
Vireos, Summer Tanagers, warblers,
the occasional ghost of a raven.

Far below, tractors pull, pickups scurry,
and blue smoke rises from verandahed motels,
hot instant chicken, bible colleges, refineries,
and suburbs. At the other verge,
eerily coming off the blind side uphill, flow boundless forests,
and endless divisions of blue-grey butternut armies.

Racketing with fierce crashes of musketry,
they clatter behind risings, dashing across
bare hills in patterns of horses.
Tiny caissons crawl, shuddering past,
bent with piles of the bloody wounded and dead,
creaking to the bullet-shattered gossamer whinings of fife.

It’s a vision of the kingdom we come from,
the republic we have been setting out for,
two ghostly realms divided
by a mystic ridge running along between
two terrible fates, like a double brink.

What does it want from us? Pointless to weep.
Pointless to blame. The vision clears, rises
like wood-smoke, and does not disband.
Still it’s there, awaiting, as we enter the machine again,
and move off through leaf-doors and walls of shadow play.

© 2015 Andrew Glaze, from the book Overheard In A Drugstore

My father was very familiar with Route 81. The most direct highway between New York State and Alabama, the highway is paralleled by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the East and the Appalachians to the West.  The crest of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range has a road called “Skyline Drive” which is well known for both it’s beautiful views and the fact that it overlooks sites where six major Civil War battles took place in Virginia during the “1862 Valley Campaign”.

The Civil War between the Northern and Southern states is part of our family heritage.  We were on the defeated rebel side. Despite that historic loss, memoirs, antiques, ancestral photos, and pride in that history, abound throughout my family tree.  So when, in the late ’60’s, a newly published photographic history of the Civil War arrived in the mail, my father pored over it with great interest.  It was the first time he’d seen photographic evidence of the darker side, and featured black and white pictures of starving prisoners of war, piles of dead bodies, graphic photos of the wounded, and survivors with missing limbs. 

After he and my stepmom moved from Manhattan to Birmingham in 2002, they made an annual summer trek to rural property we owned in Pine Plains, New York.  When they decided to visit Skyline Drive during one of those trips, he remembered those photos, and became inspired by the contrast of beautiful views and Civil War battle descriptions.  The end result was this poem.

—E. Glaze

skyline drive photo
Skyline Drive at the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Virginia.  The Shenandoah Valley is below. The valley was the site of 6 major battles during the Civil War.