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July 1, 2012, vol 8, no 2

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Jeff Streeby

Coppinger Hall

It is a curious ruin we have come to see: three long fragile walls all of four stories, two steep gables and several tall chimneys intact, a home now only to small, swift Irish birds I do not recognize.

Its most recent use – only hours before by all the signs – a calving shed: close-cropped grass, rich cow scent, swarms of midges above hoof-marked mud and muck. Portable panels of welded pipe block broad gaps in broken masonry. Across one open angle, a makeshift tin roof sags above a generous nest of yellow straw.

Someone has been at the encroaching ivy and hacked much of it away so we can see how well seven centuries of vigorous rootlets have worked their little destructions on the old manor. My friend from Oklahoma, whose ancestral seat this is, stands for many minutes with one hand pressed against a sun-warmed corner of the pile, revising her versions of history, mapping new landscapes of the world.

Arranged above us, ghosts of rooms – blue sky in empty windows – twelve cold hearths and no hope of fire.

The day is temperate and still. Ancient oaks shade the old approaches.

All around us, fields of ripening barley.

Ravens roost in the yews.
In the watering trough
a second crescent moon.