House of Green Thunder


          for Carl & Lillian Sandburg’s Connemara, Flat Rock, NC


As a child I was taken
to visit Connemara
as I remember
a little display of concrete poems
in the shapes of shoes
next to a typewriter
on an orange crate
let me know
I was taken
to visit poetry

All the books on the staircase
Said never back away from love
Of the word

O what is louder than the thorn
in the window of her thunder?

Wild Rutabaga Stories growing in
a thousand creeks under her ground

A song’s still a song
but sounds quite different when it’s grown

I took an upside-down photo
of their stationery on a shelf—
a copperplate sans serif

If it was a snake it would’a bit me
beaming in some past
I keep desiring like walking
down the main street
of a town that feels like
wearing a vintage dress

As we exit through the gift shop
the great-grand children of Lillian’s goats
reproduce in stuffed animal glory and bleat
O What is whiter than the milk

Every evening after dinner Carl opens up
the American Songbag of his mind
Singing O Susanna and such-like
banjo and grandkid on his knee

Some books he wrote
on an outcrop of rock
overlooking the valley

Since the beauty of the mountains
would be too distracting
to get much done

Sandberg wrestled upstairs
with tomes on Lincoln
in a room with no view

Now over ten thousand books
in a nine thousand square foot home of
twenty-two rooms and a million acres of sky

Connemara means the sea


Copyright © 2016 by Lee Ann Brown. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

About this Poem

"This ode is to Connemara, the house where the Sandbergs lived from 1935 to 1966, now a National Park in Flat Rock, North Carolina. There they raised their family while Lillian bred prize-winning goats, and Carl wrote many of his most notable books. I had a formative visit there as a child growing up in North Carolina, and am revisiting Sandberg’s importance to me as a writer who also uses folklorist practices. In that spirit, I weave strands of others’ words into this poem. I use rewritten or collaged lines from a traditional Appalachian Ballad, from family sayings, as well as sampled or transformed lines by both of the Sandbergs, as well as from poets Kevin Evans, and CA Conrad. It was during their reading at the Altamont Poetry Series in nearby Asheville that I began to write this poem."
Lee Ann Brown