Upon living in the former home of Gerald Stern

A poetic response to Gerald Stern’s poem “Visiting My Own House in Iowa City.” I did live at his former home in Iowa City, and the poet who stayed there between us was none other that Mark Doty, who owned the three dogs. We lived in this historic farmhouse on S Governor Street with our three cats.

CK, 2022.

Gerald Stern

We once moved into the old farmhouse belonging to a famous poet.
He wrote this poem.

After visiting the house again,
And being greeted by three barking dogs
That belonged to another famous poet

And seeing that his beloved fruit trees
Didn’t survive the flooding,
He returned to his hotel room.

Maybe it’s about the failure of nostalgia,
the fear of mutability,
knowing that what we loved changes, decays, dies.
You really can’t go home again.

We didn’t write poems while we lived there.

We wrote notes of love
to the ghosts that lived in this home,
to the ghosts we would become,

folding and tucking the notes
into little squares where the landlines
used to run.

And then we patched and painted over the holes.
Notes of love that no one will ever read.

Now, like the poet,
and then the poet that replaced that poet,
we also moved away from that house.

The poet’s poem ends with
“… I came to transform and to love.”

And the love letters we wrote to each other
hugged between plaster and paint

“We once lived and loved here, too.”