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Anne Whitehouse

The Professor’s Necktie


One winter nearly a century ago, 

Professor G’s Massachusetts farmhouse 

caught fire and burned down. 

He was a gentleman farmer

and lived there only in the summers.


No one knew how the fire started.

It was the depths of the Depression. 

Desperate people roamed the countryside. 


Notified by a neighbor, 

the volunteer fire department arrived 

too late to save the house.


Professor and Mrs. G drove up

the next day. Among the ruins

they found a volume 

of Robert Frost’s poetry. 


The cover was warped,

and there were scorch marks

at the edges of the pages.


On the title page still smelling 

of smoke was the poet’s inscription. 

His conventional message conveyed 

his good wishes to the professor.


The occasion was a poetry reading

at the college five years ago.

There was a celebratory dinner

for Frost before the reading,

where faculty were invited. 


The poet arrived at the last minute 

without a necktie, despite 

having been given explicit instructions

about the college dress code.


So Frost could attend his own dinner,

Professor G loaned him a beautiful tie

purchased the previous year 

from a London haberdasher

made of fine silk in rich stripes 

of blue, red, and gold.


Frost wore the tie to dinner

and afterwards to the reading.

When he left the next morning,

he took the tie with him

and never did return it,

although the professor wrote 

to remind him it was not a gift.

Lady Bird

In my day, women had their sphere,

and men had theirs. I became an observer, 

concealing myself behind public duties.

Some people mocked me for my devotion 

to wildflowers. Let her occupy herself, 

they said, with a cause of little importance, 

leaving us free for matters of consequence.


There is a damaged place in each of us.

With me, Lyndon never had to be ashamed

of the gawky farm boy yoked to poverty

as a result of his father’s foolish dreams.  

He was a disappointing husband,

but I would never leave him.


I come from a long line of women

who learned to look the other way.

They lived with what they couldn’t change.

It didn’t mean they liked it. 


There’s a reason I love wildflowers.

They’re not glamorous or flashy.

They have a modest prettiness

that’s worth a second look. 

The seeds may lie dormant for years,

settled or buried, blown by the wind,

but one day they will take hold and bloom.

Then they will be everywhere.

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