for the Harris family of Eldon House, London
A white house in white snow
gleams against reflected past.
The family entertain suitable
suitors to maintain their station.
They conform to a norm long
past fashion in Home County.
They adapt but do not adopt
the lay of the land. The lie is
implicit in living on middens
of territory they claim as theirs.
They plant and supplant. They
judge. They determine the law
to be real, to replace all that
went before by sheer resolve,
might of Empire at their heel.
They tell their children stories
of Home, not to be outdone but
to outdo. Tradition regulates.
Trees surround them. Sycamore
approaches imported plane tree.
Winter reverses realities: the native
ghost tree glints sunshine while plane
fades to bare-bough obscurity. Imposed
perimeters held down only by survey.
We glimpse peripheral reminiscence
half dreamt, half recollected in shards.
No telling where their multiple truths lie.
The family assume their place in the past,
proper and prosperous. Their trophies live
on in collected memorabilia, in the words
and deeds they chose to commit to paper.
Palimpsests imposed on old growth woods
as if summoning the Old World to replace
place names with their own, erasing other pasts.
Penn Kemp, from Windsor Review: Special Alice Munro Issue
Photos by Daniela Sneppova at Eldon House, from my play, The Dream Life of Teresa Harris.
1. Eldon House through Daniela’s crystal ball
2, Map plus Donna Creighton as Teresa Harris in Eldon House